A genetic marker linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) has been identified in a new study by Johns Hopkins researchers who published their findings in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.
“If this finding is confirmed, it could be useful,” said study leader Gerald Nestadt, M.D., M.P.H., a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of Johns Hopkins Obsessive Disorder Program.
“We might ultimately be able to identify new drugs that could help people with this often disabling disorder, one for which current medications work only 60 to 70 percent of the time.”
The scientists conducted what is known as a genome-wide association study, in which they scanned the genomes of more than 1,400 people with OCD and more than 1,000 close relatives of individuals with OCD. A strong link was identified in OCD patients near a gene called protein tyrosine phosphokinase (PTPRD).
Nestadt said the genome-wide association study findings of a PTRPD-OCD link add to evidence that the genetic region they identified is important. The gene has already been shown in animals to be possibly involved in learning and memory traits influenced by OCD in humans.
Moreover, some cases of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have been associated with the gene, and OCD and ADHD have some symptoms in common. He said the gene also works with another gene family, SLITRK, which has also been associated with OCD in animals.
“OCD research has lagged behind other psychiatric disorders in terms of genetics,” Nestadt says. “We hope this interesting finding brings us closer to making better sense of it — and helps us find ways to treat it.”
OCD is a disorder in which thoughts and images chronically intrude into the mind of sufferers. OCD patients often carry out repetitive behaviors, either physically or mentally, in an attempt to reduced the accompanying anxiety.
Some of the less severe forms of the disorder can add an extra hour to the day’s routine, causing distress and interfering with daily life, while some sufferers are so disabled that they can’t leave their homes.
Experts estimate that OCD affects about one to two percent of the U.S. population, and the World Health Organization has called it one of the most disabling medical conditions worldwide. Antidepressant medications work for some sufferers of OCD, but not all; the same is true of behavioral therapy.
Source: The John Hopkins Hospital
This article first appeared on Psychcentral on 17 May 2014.