Monday, July 28, 2008

The Urgency of Now

What is the genetic basis for mental illnesses?  While there is better insight into this link than there was 20 years ago, the exact correlation remains unknown.  Finding out is long overdue.

It is known that schizophrenia is a brain disease.  Debate on that topic is no longer waged, with the exception of some fringe groups.  Through brain imaging and other technologies it has been established that is not a purely genetic disease and that other biological factors play a role. 

The mapping of the human genome was complete in the year 2000.  Why is so much still unknown?

One answer is that the federal agency in charge of mental health research, the National Institute of Mental Health, has been slow to respond.

The Institute just recently issued a request for proposal calling for some of this research.  “With the initial stages of the Human Genome Project complete,” reads the government’s July 24, 2008, application to researchers.  News flash:  The complete sequencing of the human genome was completed in April 2000. 

Quality research does take time.  This is not to say the NIMH should cut corners on what it takes for scientists to do their job.  However, the Institute does need a better understanding of the urgency of now facing people with a severe mental illness.