People who have autism, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder may have different challenges, but the ailments might arise from a common set of genes. Researchers compared genetic analyses of 700 human brains from deceased individuals who had one of those three disorders, major depression or alcoholism (columns) with brains of individuals who had none of the conditions. They examined 13 groups of genes thought to function together (rows). The scientists found that five groups had a pattern of overactivity or underactivity across at least three of the five conditions (blue and gray panels). Bipolar disorder, for example, was more similar to schizophrenia than to major depression even though clinicians may link bipolar disorder and depression, based on their symptoms. These insights could possibly reveal new treatments, says neurogeneticist Daniel Geschwind of the University of California, Los Angeles, one of the investigators. He adds that one path to that result, which has not yet been tested, could be to “put the different groups of genes in lab dishes and see which drugs reverse any overexpression or underexpression of the genes.”

Graphic by Martin Krzywinski; Source: “Shared Molecular Neuropathology across Major Psychiatric Disorders Parallels Polygenic Overlap,” by Michael J. Gandal et al., in Science. Vol. 359; February 9, 2018