Genetic link to anxiety
A Helsinki – The causes of human anxiety disorders are largely unexplored, so there are currently no targeted drugs available for treatment. That’s why Finnish researchers from the Academy of Finland Research Programme on Neuroscience (NEURO) in September came up with a cross-species approach to identify pathways that are linked to disease etiology.
In a population of 321 Finnish patients and 653 control subjects, they screened for point mutations in 13 human homologues to mice genes that predisposed the animals to develop anxiety disorders. The team led by Iiris Hovatta found a statistical association to different disorders for several genes: delta-aminolevulinate dehydratase (ALAD) was linked to social phobia, dynein light chain 2 (DYNLL2) was associated with generalised anxiety disorder, and prosaposin (PSAP) seemed to increase the risk for panic disorder. “Environmental factors such as stressful life events may trigger an anxiety disorder more easily in people who have a genetic predisposition to the illness,” explains Hovatta. In follow-up studies, Spanish and US collaborators will try to replicate the results in other populations. A closer understanding of the genetics and neurobiology of anxiety disorders is expected to help improve treatment of the illness. Less than 50% of the patients benefit from the current medications.