Gene Behind Mental Illness in Women Identified, Potential for Early Treatment Likely

Mental illness in women is characterized by a specific gene that interacts with the X chromosome, found researchers paving the way for future potential research to treat psychiatric patients, whose number is on the rise owing to new isolated lifestyle.

The gene identified as XIST inactivates one of the two X chromosome copies cells meant for storing genetic material, leading to over-production of XIST that leads to mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, major depression and schizophrenia.

depressionNow that the gene or the biomarker for mental illness has been identified, researchers are hopeful to change or reverse the abnormal activity of the inactive X chromosome in those patients, thus offering a new treatment to psychiatric disorders.

“There has been an utmost urgency to identify biomarkers for mental illness that could significantly impact research and drug development,” said Xianjin Zhou of the department of psychiatry at at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

The researchers have studied 60 lymphoblastoid cell lines from female patients with a history or family history of mental illness and about 50% of them had an abnormally higher level of XIST and other genes related to the X chromosome, which confirms their hypothesis that many female patients may have abnormal function of the inactive X chromosome.

The finding essentially leads to early doagnosis of possible threat from mental disorders through a simple blood test, says Zhou. Once identified, medical intervention can be rushed through to prevent its harmful effect and opt for other treatment options, said Zhou, whose study has been published in the journal EbioMedicine.

The recent focus of research cellular biology has made it possible to identify genes causing diseases. In a recent such study, the biomarker causing liver cancer called Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC, also called malignant hepatoma), which is the most common type of liver cancer next to viral hepatitis infection (hepatitis B or C) or cirrhosis, has been found by researchers. Similar biomarkers for HIV and lung diseases have been identified, opening up a potential route to treat these diseases.

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