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More evidence that genes could be a factor in OCD

December 16, 2021

The linkage between biology and the mysteries of the mind has tightened a bit with the discovery of a possible genetic connection to obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD.

OCD is characterized by uncontrollable recurring thoughts and behaviors one is compelled to repeat over and over. The condition affects around 1.2% of American adults and more than three times as many women as men. Half of diagnosed OCD patients have “serious” impairment, and treatment – antidepressants and/or cognitive behavioral therapy – helps only half the time.

In the first analysis of its kind, researchers recently analyzed the genes of 1,300 OCD patients and a similarly large control groups, and documented a “strong correlation” between OCD and rare mutations, particularly in a gene called SLITRK5. The study also identified a specific pattern of variation in other genes.

The findings emerge from a genome-wide analysis instead of the conventional focus on a particular candidate gene prior to a study. The latter approach can cause computational challenges and miss unexpected genes.

“The solution to the problem is to study all the genes in the genome at the same time and ask whether any of them have significant’ evidence of influencing risk,” says David Goldstein, PhD, director of the Institute for Genomic Medicine at Columbia University and a senior author on a new paper published in Nature Science. “That had not been done yet at scale in OCD.”

Human biospecimens yield the crucial data

This research, which could lead to drugs targeting SLITRK5, is yet another example of how human biospecimens such as blood embody a wealth of data that can yield important discoveries, such as biomarkers for psychological conditions.

Precision medicine relies on the identification of biomarkers through precision research, which in this case required access to a cohort of 1,300 OCD patients. iSpecimen’s mission is helping researchers like these more easily access the biospecimens they want from the patients they need.

Research organizations using the iSpecimen Marketplace can filter collections by specific age, gender, race, blood type, BMI, smoking status, medical history, family history, and more.

Our ultimate goal is to accelerate medical discoveries that improve human health, both physical and mental.

Learn about the iSpecimen Marketplace where you can browse millions of richly annotated, de-identified human tissue and biofluid biospecimens, in addition to hematopoietic and immune cell products and COVID-19 samples. You can join for free.