In this week's Science, a team of US and Danish scientists publishes a study identifying genetic overlap between five major psychiatric disorders: autism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, and alcoholism. The researchers analyzed gene-expression profiles from hundreds of brain tissue samples from individuals with the conditions, as well as matched controls, and found patterns of shared as well as distinct gene-expression perturbations across the disorders. "This comprehensive systems-level view of the neurobiological architecture of major neuropsychiatric illness demonstrates pathways of molecular convergence and specificity," the scientists write. GenomeWeb has more on this, here.
Also in Science, researchers from MIT's Synthetic Biology Center discuss the potential of gene programming and genetically engineered cellular therapy, as well as the limitations facing their clinical implementation. Despite some success in treating monogenic disorders and hematological malignancies, "current approaches are limited to overexpression of one or a few transgenes, constraining the diseases that can be treated with this approach and leading to potential concerns over safety and efficacy," they write. Synthetic biology, however, may help overcome these sorts of challenges, allowing for the regulation of dosage, timing, and localization of gene expression and therapeutic activity in response to small molecules and disease biomarkers.