Overproduction of a particular gene could be a diagnostic indicator of mental illness in female psychiatric patients and a significant finding that may lead to easier diagnoses and new treatment options.
Female patients with mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, major depression and schizophrenia have a gene XIST, which is responsible for inactivating one of the two copies of the X chromosome in cells that store genetic material.
Over-production of XIST and genes from the inactive X chromosome are common denominators in the development of psychiatric disorders in patients with rare chromosome disorders.
Reversing the abnormal activity of the inactive X chromosome in patients suffering from mental illness may offer a potential new strategy for treating psychiatric disorders.
"There has been an utmost urgency to identify biomarkers for mental illness that could significantly impact research and drug development," said Lead author Xianjin Zhou, Assistant professor, Department of Psychiatry at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.
The study was conducted on 60 lymphoblastoid cell lines from female patients with a family history of mental illness. Nearly 50 percent of the patients exhibited abnormally higher level of XIST and other genes related to the X chromosome.
"Our results indicate that a large subpopulation of female psychiatric patients from the general population may have abnormal function of the inactive X chromosome. These results are powerful in that early diagnosis of mental illness could possibly happen with a simple blood test, leading to better interventions, therapy and treatment options," Zhou concluded.