Lead researcher Jonas Donner, a medical geneticist at the University of Helsinki, evaluated genes that may be associated with the risk for human anxiety disorders.
The research team utilized a cross-species approach and tested 13 human homologs of genes that had previously shown to be differentially expressed in mouse strains that differed in their innate anxiety levels.
They then studied groups of humans with anxiety disorders and found some evidence of association among six of these genes and particular anxiety disorders.
They revealed that the strongest associations were between variation in ALAD with risk for social phobia, DYNLL2 with risk for generalized anxiety disorder, and PSAP with risk for panic disorder.
"This intriguing study by Donner and colleagues harnesses the power of the animal models to guide the search for genes that contribute to the risk for human anxiety disorders. This process led to a number of interesting candidates for future study," said Dr. John H. Krystal, the Editor of the journal Biological Psychiatry, which has published an article on the study.
Corresponding author Dr. Iiris Hovatta further said: "We found gene variants that seem to specifically predispose to certain anxiety disorder types, such as panic disorder, social phobia or generalized anxiety disorder. These findings give us an excellent starting point to investigate their molecular function in the brain and how the proteins coded by these genes regulate anxiety."
The researcher conceded that further research was required to see whether the findings would replicate, and to understand the extent that specific genetic variants play in predisposing one to developing an anxiety disorder.
They, however, insisted: "Nevertheless, our results illustrate the potential utility of cross-species approaches in the identification of susceptibility genes for human psychiatric disorders."