Baltimore researchers have reported finding a genetic marker that could be linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). They hope that the information they uncovered could prove important in learning more about the cause of the disorder and ways to treat it.
Scientists from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have completed a study involving 5,061 OCD patients, their close relatives, and subjects from the general public, Medical News Today reports. Their findings appeared in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.
OCD is a psychiatric disorder that affects 2.2 million people in the United States, about 1 percent of the population, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. The median age at which it occurs is 19. A fourth of patients develop the disorder by age 14. Overall, about a third of adults with OCD experienced their first symptoms as children.
A person with OCD is fixated on double checking things. The National Institute of Mental Health says patients with this disorder feel a need to check things over and over, to have specific thoughts, or to perform rituals and routines repeatedly. This causes them distress and interferes with their lives.
Some individuals with this condition have an urge to touch things repeatedly in a certain order. Patients might also have a preoccupation with order and are hoarders. While the incurable condition sometimes occurs throughout a family, the cause remains elusive. The objective of current treatment is to manage symptoms via behavioral therapy and the use of antidepressants. However, treatment is successful only about 60 to 70 percent of the time.
The Johns Hopkins researchers analyzed genomes of 1,406 OCD patients, more than 1,000 of their close relatives, and unrelated subjects. They discovered that the OCD patients possessed a “significant association” on chromosome 9. This occurred near a gene known as protein tyrosine phosphokinase (PTPRD).
Prior animal studies have linked this gene with learning and memory, activities that OCD influences in human subjects. PTPRD has also sometimes been associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which has some symptoms similar to those of OCD. This gene works with another gene family dubbed SLITRK, which researchers previously tied to OCD in animals.
In an earlier study, researchers concluded that dogs could be models of OCD that occurs in humans. They uncovered four genes related to OCD in susceptible dog breeds like bull terriers and Doberman pinschers. Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers reported being able to block OCD behavior in mouse subjects in 2013 by activating a brain circuit that can control compulsive behavior.
Vonda J. Sines has published thousands of print and online health and medical articles. She specializes in diseases and other conditions that affect the quality of life.