Gene-specific targeted treatment may help reduce symptoms of psychosis

The last few years have seen a noteworthy progress in identifying genetic factors as the underlying causes for mental health disorders such as schizophrenia, psychosis, bipolar disorder, and other psychiatric disorders. Quite a large number of common genetic variants have been identified as collective risk factors for psychotic disorders but the impacts of individual variants were too small and uncertain. According to a study by a group of researchers from McLean Hospital, treatment targeting specific structural mutation can prove effective in cases of psychosis involving delusions and hallucinations.

Rare variants of genes had greater risk effects for psychotic disorders and were assumed to have a greater impact on core pathophysiological processes. The study led by Dr. Deborah Levy, director of the Psychology Research Laboratory at McLean Hospital provided an evidence-based demonstration on how relief was achieved by targeting a specific genotype and highlighted the association between individual structural mutation with the pathophysiology of psychosis.

Copies of genes defined gene variant

The study defined a gene variant by the increase in the number of copies of specific genes also known as CNV (copy number variant). The CNV in this particular study included the gene which encoded the glycine decarboxylase enzyme (GLDC). According to Dr. Levy, individual large effect mutations were rare, which in fact occurred only in a few families.

The study included participants which had 4 identical copies of the GLDC gene instead of the usual two. GLDC helped in the breakdown of glycine which acted as a co-agonist at the NDMA receptor, a type of excitatory glutamate receptor. According to Dr. Levy and her group of researchers, the existence of an increased number of GLDC copies questioned the medicinal actionality in individuals with this mutation.

Standard psychotropic agents improved medical symptoms

NDMA receptor hypo function has always been considered to be a significant factor in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. Further, genetic variants have been associated with NDMA receptor function. Co-author Dr. Uwe Rudolph, former director of the Laboratory of Genetic Neuropharmacology at McLean Hospital said that they had predicted NDMA hypo function was caused due to lack of glycine at the modulatory site of NDMA receptor due to increased glycine breakdown.

The findings suggested that addition of standard psychotropic agents like clozapine with glycine or D- cycloserine showed improvement in medical symptoms. Explaining more about the study, Dr. Levy said that using a “genotype first” approach, the researchers studied if the increased associated copy number causing low glycine availability could be normalized using agents.


The result of the study suggested that response to treatment was determined by the targeted mutation independent of clinical analysis. Dr. J. Alexander Bodkin, the director of the Clinical Psychopharmacology Research Program at McLean Hospital said that the results among the participants bore little medicinal similarity and were highly dissimilar courses of illnesses.

Terming the findings as promising and positive, co-author Dr. Charity J. Morgan, from the University of Alabama at Birmingham said that though the study highlighted an encouraging treatment approach, more research was required as such types of gene variants were rare. Also due to the small sample size, the effects of the treatment on a large-scale were difficult to measure.

Treatment for psychosis

Living with psychosis is not easy. A person suffering from it may experience depression, social isolation, anxiety, sleep disorders, and also face difficulties in performing day-to-day activities. According to federal statistics, approximately 100,000 young adults experience psychosis each year in the U.S. and about 3 out of 100 have experienced it once in their lifetime. It is important to identify the symptoms at the earliest and seek treatment as timely help can change an individual’s life.

If you or a loved one is battling a mental health disorder, contact the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline. We offer credible information about evidence-based treatments available near you. Call our 24/7 inpatient mental health helpline (855) 653-8178 to know about the finest 24/7mental health treatment center. You can also use our live chat service to get in touch with one of our representatives for more information.