The genetics of therapy response?!?

Many people are now becoming aware of new research in the field of pharmacogenomics is showing that a person's genes help determine what medications s/he will respond to. Although these results are profoundly important for any field of medicine, whether its oncology or cardiology, high hopes remain in the field of psychiatry, especially due to the trial and error nature of prescribing meds.

In fact, a gene chip has recently become available where researchers can test your potential response to a wide variety of medications. How? It looks at mutations in genes that metabolize the drugs. People with genes that cause a slow metabolism of drugs* tend to get walloped with wide effects; those with faster drug metabolism might not even feel an effect.

However, researchers from Canada have examined the relationship between several different variants of serotonin transporter and receptor genes in people with bulimia and their response to a multimodal course of psychotherapy. As it turns out, the particular variant has a significant effect on a person's response to therapy.

People with a low function serotonin transporter gene showed smaller reductions in binge eating and depression and anxiety, regardless of what treatment they received. Those patients with a low functioning serotonin receptor gene showed a smaller decrease in binge eating and impulsivity, again, regardless of the treatment they received. The authors of the paper did not state if there were any participants with low functioning versions of both genes and how they fared. A dose-response effect (that is, people with both low functioning versions of the genes would show even less reduction in these factors that those with either the low functioning transporter or the low functioning receptor) would really add strength to their findings.

However, I think this study is fascinating and really opened my eyes to a new area of research. I had never thought about this, and I hope that others continue to look at this relationship between genetics and treatment, be it pharmaceutical or armchair.

*I'm not honestly sure whether this is related to your metabolism of food- I have no reason to think it is as different enzymes would be involved. Metabolism really just means the breaking down of a substance into smaller parts with the body. The opposite of metabolism is catabolism, the building of larger molecules from smaller ones.

**The cortisol post will appear later today, my little chickadees. I got swamped in outside work the past few days and haven't been able to finish.

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Anonymous said...

what a fantastic study! I have been through the trial-and-error method of trying out drug after drug before finding the right one, so I think this could really help.

Anonymous said...

I think this is great. My daughter recently had a bad reaction to a drug for ADHD, and then she had an overly strong response to the drug that was given to counter the bad side effects of the ADHD drug. It was a nightmare.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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