Lord of the Rings meets Lord of the Flies, in fact, with Animal Farm and 1984 thrown in. See, here, they’ve found the one, true, genetic code for insanity. Yes, one Gene to code it’s holder’s life of madness. To bind him there.
“Five major mental disorders share some of the same genetic risk factors, the largest genome-wide study of its kind has found. Evidence for such genetic overlap had previously been limited to pairs of disorders.”
begins an article published recently in the NIMH journal – Five Major Mental Disorders Share Genetic Roots:
This, in turn referenced an article published in The Lancet, “Identification of risk loci with shared effects on five major psychiatric disorders: a genome-wide analysis”:
Bring it down, bring it down, so’s it’s in manageable state. OK, well my “in” on this noble academic pursuit was far more urbane – the 20p “i” newspaper, for time/financially impoverished readers of the more long winded/expensive Independent. Their Health Editor wrote that “A common genetic defect links disorders” Funny how one word can get your hackles up, emit the odour of a rat. I had to explore further to put it to rest. The word? Why “defect”, of course.
As an undergraduate geneticist, I chatted with my co-students about the wide expanse of possibilities the subject offered us. Plant breeding was popular – we had Dr Shastry, a charming Indian who’d grown up on plant breeding plantations prior to leaving the practical art to teaching the academic theory. He had wonderful tales about cobra! Medical diagnostics were popular too – the brand new medical school provided some of us students.
But by a long way most popular was improving humankind by controlled breeding and some horrendous neo-eugenics. There could be a station deep in the South American jungle, salaries would be immeasurable and labs to die for. It was an odd group!
Since that time the most notable advance has been the transposing of the human genome sequence. This has led to the near assumption that scientists can look at this string of genetic beads and sort out all the discrepancies adding and subtracting bits as appropriate to sort out a huge portion of medical problems. “Oh, the illness is in fact genetic”, “W e must fund raise to find a cure for his rare genetic condition” or “Scientists are investigating this cluster of deaths and are thinking there may well be a common genetic factor to explain them”.
We’ve all read or watched such descriptions and, indeed, some of us may even have done such research. Here, though, they’re working in the other direction and are taking a diverse collection of behavioural disorders and attempting to find common causality deep in the genetic material. The conditions chosen are
- attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- bipolar disorder (aka “the illness that used to called manic depression”)
- major depression
Well clearly this grouping is far from a heterogenous social cross section, and they all show behaviour patterns developed as they progress into life. Mostly, too, they’re pretty recent designations – the first three being post second world war definitions, schizophrenia a bit older and “depression” the only reasonably long standing state – examples being found in Shakespeare and Chaucer and doubtless scattered as sundry melancholies on a global basis throughout history. In truth, one could argue that bipolar states existed in olden days as well – Falstaff, say! Alcohol and its impacts one tends to assume.
Which is, I guess, my first thrust against this new hypothesis – their aetiology is clearly very different – only major depression seeming to occur naturally, with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder including modern inputs (diet, lifestyle and possible modern toxicities) and autism/ADHD both being highly tied into modern medical fallouts (collateral damage to vaccination).
But could this genetic morphology, these particular sequences of nucleotides without particular operational usage, have such devastating impact? I suppose I cannot deny it as a feasible possibility but no way is this a defect when mostly we are describing physiological reactions to introduced toxins – from mead up to modern vaccines.
But how useful labels are, how important it is to categorise people. Black, white, tall and short, smart or thick. Now here’s a pre-natal test in someone’s schemes for sane or mad.
I love genetics, it’s a marvellous science giving insight into the very fundamentals of life, including a vision back through evolutionary time for billions of years. It is awesomely powerful and full of the deepest subtlety, developed over all that time. Us ingénues have such gall in suggesting we can not only understand it but also improve upon it and cure its irksome defects. Me, I prefer for us to hold the system in deep respect and realise how best to work with it to optimise its capabilities. It ain’t broke, it ain’t defective, it’s just working in less than optimal conditions and frequently carrying a toxic overload.
So solutions are simple – improve operational conditions and remove these toxins. I hate all this Sophistry when answers are so obvious.