An evening debate organised by the charity that publishes BioNews, the Progress Educational Trust (PET).
By the end of 2008, genome-wide association studies of autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder and schizophrenia in 80,000 subjects and 40billion total genotypes were said to constitute the largest biological experiment ever conducted in psychiatry. Since then, a massive international project has set out to coordinate this growing wealth of genetic data. The first batch of analyses resulting from this work identified several significant common genetic variations associated with schizophrenia, and further findings are expected in 2010. Elsewhere, a 'transcriptional atlas of human brain development' is being created to understand patterns of gene expression relevant to mental health.
What, if anything, does such genetic and epigenetic research mean for those with psychological disorders, their families and their carers? How does the heritability of these conditions relate to genetic, environmental and stochastic (random) factors? Can society's contribution to psychological disorders be usefully captured by categories such as 'gene' and 'environment', or does it need to be considered separately? If you are found to have 'the gene for' a disorder (as the popular expression has it), does this effectively mean you are marked for life?
Find out more about genetics in The Rough Guide to Genes and Cloning, coauthored by BioNews Contributing Editor Dr Jess Buxton (buy this book from Amazon UK or Amazon USA); and find out more about fertility/embryology regulation in Human Fertilisation and Embryology: Reproducing Regulation, coedited by BioNews Contributing Editor Dr Kirsty Horsey (buy this book from Amazon UK or Amazon USA).