Posts Tagged ‘human genome’

I found an article that gives new meaning to the concept of listening to your gut. The opening line reads “Early digestive problems may hardwire the brain for depression.”


Researchers at Stanford are trying to figure out which comes first, the gut problems or the depression.  The working theory was that hormones released during sadness trigger negative effects on the stomach area, but now they’re not so sure. The gut problems might trigger the depression.

This isn’t exactly a scientific observation, but I can vouch for their theory. I had bad stomach pains when I was young, before anyone noticed signs of depression in me. Diagnosed with nonspecific gastrothisandthat or whatever, I ended up in the doctor’s office or the ER on a regular basis. I was doubled over in pain, and nobody could figure out why. Here’s the kicker: When I went on antidepressants and mood stabilizers in my mid-20s, the gut problems mysteriously disappeared.

A research group from Kings College in London has narrowed down the genetics of severe recurring depression to chromosome 3, and both the Stanford group and a research group from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, have come up with basically the same results. In the research world, all three groups finding the same thing is pretty important.

The curious thing about genetic mapping is that there is so much apparently unrelated information on each chromosome. According to the National Institute of Health, there are currently 51 known disorders known to be associated with chromosome 3, one of which is the thoracic aortic aneurysm my dad had. I’m pretty sure that had nothing to do with depression…although come to think of it, he was going through a pretty low time in his life… But I don’t have any of those syndromes or deficiencies…that I know of…yet…hmm.

But then there’s still this “which came first, the chicken or the egg” thing. Do certain disorders make it easier for depression to surface, or does depression pave the way for certain other weaknesses to present themselves – those gut problems, for example?

See, I think the process of discovering all of this is interesting. Someday, all this research put together will help doctors prescribe more effective treatments for depression instead of “hey, I got a new sample – let’s see what this does.”


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Check this out. The US Patent Office has officially declared that we don’t own our own genetic material, and apparently they’ve been doing it for years.

Now, normally I don’t jump every time the ACLU has a problem with something, but this one I like. On behalf of 20 plaintiffs, including other researchers and individual cancer patients who can’t get the testing they need, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit in a New York federal court to release the patent which says that Myriad Genetics is the only company that can study, test, and report on the BRCA genes related to breast and ovarian cancer.

This isn’t exactly a new story, but twelve years and eight patents ago, someone at the US Patent Office began setting a seriously questionable precedent.

If they’re really preventing anyone else from even looking at these genes, Myriad’s patents have succeeded in holding up cancer research – for now. Fortunately, someone has already recognized the futility of patenting nature. Myriad’s motion to dismiss was denied by the judge. Stay tuned.

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Did you know that there may be a genetic link between bipolar disorder and schizophrenia?

Yep. Take a look at this. Apparently there were three different genetic variation research studies going on recently. (“Genetic variation” is a nice way of saying your heredity has screwed you in some way.) All of them point to one particular chromosome that had problems in both schizophrenic and bipolar patients – #6.

We all have 23 pairs of chromosomes, and that’s where our genes are. The last pair is the most famous, because it determines whether a person is male or female. Chromosome pair #6 (only named that because it’s the 6th largest chromosome) is already known for genes that regulate immunity, among other things. So, not only do we have a common link between bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, autoimmune conditions are probably a part of the mix as well. (“Autoimmune” is a nice way of saying that your own body is screwing you in some way.)

The director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is now wondering if they should redefine the diagnostic categories of mental illnesses. Good for him – the answer is YES. We would be one step closer toward the possibility of an accurate diagnosis and relevant treatment for all of us. Keep learning, people.

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