New Gene For Mental Illness

Researchers report that molecular genotyping has confirmed an earlier finding that a specific gene predisposes its carriers to psychiatric illness.

In the January 1998 issue of Molecular Psychiatry, Ronnie G. Swift, M.D., associate professor of clinical psychiatry, and Michael Swift, M.D., professor of pediatrics (both at New York Medical College), and others, relate that carriers of a single mutation in the Wolfram syndrome gene are 26 times more likely to require hospitalization for depression and/or suicide attempts than people who do not have a mutation in this gene. The authors estimate that 1 percent of the population, and 25 percent of the patients hospitalized for such psychiatric difficulties, may be carrying the gene.

Individuals who have two mutant WS genes have the distinctive Wolfram syndrome, characterized by diabetes mellitus and optic nerve deterioration. Wolfram syndrome patients often exhibit depression, violent and assaultive behavior, chronic anxiety and/or panic attacks, and hallucinations, or have attempted suicide.

Identification of genes that predispose to psychiatric illness will ultimately enable mental health practitioners to make more precise psychiatric diagnoses and to prescribe better treatments, the authors state. This report is a step to this goal.

For further information, please contact the corresponding author, Dr. Michael Swift, M.D. 914-347-2592; e-mail: <michael_swift@nymc.edu>

This articles is from the January1998 issue of Molecular Psychiatry, an independent peer-reviewed journal published by Stockton Press/Macmillan Press.

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Molecular Psychiatry

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