Schizophrenia and autism share genetic link

Two of the most widely studied--and misunderstood--mental health conditions might share a genetic connection.

New research from Tel Aviv University and the Sheba Medical Center has found that there is indeed a link between autism and schizophrenia.

Branches of the same tree

It appears that Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) stem from similar genetic patterns that cause both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder--and these diseases may have more in common that medical professionals originally thought.

The researchers used data from both Israel and Sweden, discovering that an individual with a schizophrenic sibling is 12 times more likely to develop autism than someone without a schizophrenic sibling. Those with bi-polar siblings also showed similar results, albeit not as significant as the schizophrenia-autism connection.

A hope for bettering treatment

Most interesting about the study--which included information on over a million people--is that researchers used three different sets of data and came up with comparable results for each.

Dr. Mark Weiser, lead researcher, notes that both schizophrenia and autism patients share similar traits: an inability to socially function, abnormal cognitive patterns and difficulty in leading normal lives. The study, he claims, is a huge stride forward in understanding and treating these types of diseases.

The idea of creating medications or treatment programs that can address both types of mental illness is an exciting one for medical professionals.

"Understanding the genetic connection could be a missing link," said Weiser.

The research team hopes to continue the study by implementing clinical trials next.

Source: Science Daily
Source: Medical News Today

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