Jonathan Mill and colleagues at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College, London have scanned the genome of 22 pairs of identical twins. The twins were chosen because one twin in each pair was diagnosed with Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder.
The findings produce the strongest evidence yet that gene changes caused by their environment might cause the conditions
The twins had identical DNA. But they showed significant differences in chemical “epigenetic” markings. These are changes that do not alter the sequence of DNA but leave chemical marks on genes that dictate how active they are. These changes were on genes that have been linked with Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia.
Mill’s team scanned for differences in the attachment of chemical methyl groups at 27,000 sites in the genome. Genes are normally switched off by Methylation and De-Methylation turns them on.
Regardless of which condition the twin had, the most significant differences,with variations of up to 20% in the amount of Methylation, were in the promoter “switch” for a gene called ST6GALNAC1, which has been linked with Schizophrenia . The function of this gene is not yet fully known but it is thought to add sugars to proteins which could alter the speed or specificity of their usual function
The findings have tallied with another study which involved the screening of post- mortem brain tissue from people who had some form of psychosis. Here the researchers found differences of up to 25% in methylation of the same gene, compared with controls
The twin scans also showed methylation differences in GPR24 a gene previously linked to Bipolar Disorder. One gene called ZNF659 showed over- methylation in people with Schizophrenia and under- methylation in those were were Bipolar. This suggests that the conditions might result from opposing gene activity. (Human Molecular Genetics DOI:10.19098/hmg/ddr416)
Jonathan Mill says “We know these disorders are related, and there are clinical features shared by both. But our scan suggests there are some genes that might be overactive in one disease and underactive in the other.”
Mill says that twins would need to be scanned regularly through life to find out whether epigenetic changes precede the onset of the disorders. Maybe then the alterations could be linked to environmental changes like stressful events or diet, which have been shown to cause inheritable epigenetic changes in mice.
The human studies support the hypothesis that epigenetic mechanisms may drive psychiatric disorders. I think the environment we live in and trauma we endure are key factors in the onset of conditions such as Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder and it is certainly well documented that trauma in childhood is a key risk factor for psychosis. I ask the Government to invest more money in mental health research. The current level of 6.5% is simply too low. We should be looking to protect our children and also to widen our understanding of the role of epigenetics in mental health.
David Cameron clearly enjoyed himself at the Jubilee Concert and street parties but I am waiting to hear what he has to say about the shameful exploitation of the many unpaid job seekers taken by bus to London at night to work as stewards for the Jubilee celebrations
A contractor brought in these job seekers from Bristol, Plymouth and Bath. It is said that the stewards had no access to toilets for 24 hours. They had to change into their security uniforms in public (there has been an apology from the company) and they were expected to sleep under London Bridge. For £2.80 an hour (apprentice wages) or nothing. After a fourteen hour shift in the rain the stewards were taken to a boggy campsite somewhere outside London. What a way to treat human beings. Human beings with bladders Mr Cameron.
These people were treated dreadfully with no thought for their rights. What are you going to say Mr Cameron? I’m listening.
There should be absolutely no reason for this listing to exist; but whilst the necessity to advance the ‘No FGM in UK’ message remains, this post is offered as a way to record lobbying, and what is actually being done, to halt the risk of genital mutilation to at least two children in Britain, every hour, every day – horrifically, that’s well over 20,000 small girls in the UK p.a.. You are welcome to share in the Comments box below any information about, or actions taken to prevent, FGM in the UK.
Please tell others too that their contributions here will be very welcome.
I hope very soon that this post will no longer need to be featured on my website. To help get to that point, please if you are a UK citizen or resident sign and forward to others this e-petition, which is on the HM Government website and open until 25 June 2013:
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There is currently very serious concern in the UK about the increasing numbers of small girls – estimated to be over 20,000 annually – who are at risk of FGM (female genital mutilation). This is indisputably a matter of child abuse; discussion and news on action about #NoFGM in the UK can be found on this website here. But many maintain that male circumcision – more properly, MGM -is also child abuse and should be banned in the UK. You are therefore welcome to share information and (evidenced) views about male circumcision as well, via the Comments box below.
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