The Present: Genomic Studies
Since the decoding of the human genome was accomplished in 2003, tremendous progress has already been made in understanding the role of genetic variations in the transmission of OCD and other mental disorders. By studying the genomic scans of over two hundred family members where at least two siblings had OCD, researchers at Johns Hopkins identified five different chromosomal locations that appeared to play a role in the genetic development of the disorder. Still, with each new discovery come many more questions. What exist now are more hints than hypotheses, but from the point of view of a parent whose child is battling OCD, this progress provides important hope for imminent breakthroughs that could eventually help your child.
An example of how genetic research in the laboratory can quickly lead to dramatic advances in treatment of the illness (rather than just its symptoms) is available from a recent research success involving Alzheimer's disease. In the case of Alzheimer's, where no treatments were available to halt the deteriorating progress of its symptoms, geneticists located a single genetic variation (in “a B-amyloid precursor”) that is present in individuals suffering from the disease. Because researchers also learned the functional effect of this mutation on a specific brain protein, they were able to design a new medication, which acted on the faulty metabolism process at a point “upstream,” thus compensating for its faulty actions. Doctors saw an impressive halting of the downward progression of the disease in 60 percent of patients treated with the new drug. Most significantly, the time between the identification of the mutation in 1991 and its first therapeutic application in 2003 was just over a decade!