Psychiatric genetics has witnessed significant advancements over the last decade, enhancing our understanding of the genetic underpinnings of psychiatric disorders and paving the way for precision psychiatry. This emerging field aims to use individual genetic profiles for personalised risk assessment and informed clinical decision-making.
Recent research demonstrates that psychiatric disorders are influenced by thousands of genetic variants acting collectively, with common variants contributing to varying degrees of risk in individuals. Large-scale genetic studies have identified numerous common and rare genetic variants associated with major psychiatric disorders, with altered synaptic function implicated in autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia. Despite these findings, a comprehensive mechanistic understanding remains elusive.
Psychiatric disorders are not only interconnected on a genetic level, but they also share genetic influences with various behavioural and somatic traits and diseases, such as cognitive function, immunological phenotypes, and cardiovascular disease. This overlap supports the idea that current psychiatric diagnoses do not represent distinct pathogenic entities, challenging traditional psychiatric nosology.
Although polygenic risk score tools, which predict individual genetic susceptibility to illness, are not yet clinically actionable, they are expected to improve in precision and potentially become part of clinical practice. This development underscores the need to educate clinicians and patients about the potential applications and pitfalls of these tools.
In their recent review, authors Ole A. Andreassen, Guy F.L. Hindley, Oleksandr Frei, and Olav B. Smeland discuss the key insights from psychiatric genetics, their potential clinical applications, and suggest directions for future research.
Find the article here.