Researchers at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, claim to have uncovered a missing link that may provide new clues in uncovering the mysteries of major psychosis.
They have discovered epigenetic changes, i.e. chemical changes to a gene that do not alter the DNA sequence, in individuals with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder that may be a significant step in fully understanding the mental illness.
The team of researchers led by Dr. Arturas Petronis, senior scientist in the Krembil Family Epigenetic Laboratory at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) examined 12,000 locations on the genome using an epigenomic profiling technology developed at CAMH.
The findings revealed that about one in every two hundred of these genes had an epigenetic difference in the brains of psychiatric patients.
These changes were seen in genes involved in neurotransmission that is the exchange of chemical messages within the brain, brain development, and other processes linked to disease onset.
Dr. Petronis said that these epigenetic changes might be the missing link in understanding what causes an illness.
“The DNA sequence of genes for someone with an illness like schizophrenia and for someone without a mental illness often look the same; there are no visible changes that explain the cause of a disease,” he said.
“But we now have tools that show us changes in the second code, the epigenetic code, which may give us some very important clues for uncovering the mysteries of major psychosis and other complex non-Mendelian illnesses,” he added.