I came across an interesting article online a few days ago that seemed to coincide with my personal belief that the hair-pulling disorder Trichotillomania could be passed down genetically. If you don’t know much or anything at all about this mental illness, classified under the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder category for its repetitive behavior, take a look at the photo below in green (or click on the link at the bottom of this post):
The article, titled “Ancient Gene Takes Grooming in Hand” by Bruce Bower, was published in the newsmagazine Science News, Volume 161, No. 2, pg. 20 on January 2nd, 2002. Bower immediately dove into the well-known fact that a wide range of animals tend to groom themselves on a regular basis, including mice. However, when looking deeper into mice DNA during embryonic development, it led scientists to uncover that the mutated gene homeobox, or Hox, may influence the amount of grooming an animal takes part in. Geneticists Joy M. Greer and Mario R. Capecchi from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City conducted the study on Hox, whom altered a copy of the gene. Comparisons between the mutated mice and the normal mice were studied, which after 24 hours of video observation revealed that the mice with the mutated gene practiced their grooming habits twice as often as the mice without the mutation. Laboratory analyses of the brains of the mutant mice then revealed molecular footprints of Hoxb8 activity in areas that had already been implicated in control of animal grooming and generation of human OCD symptoms, such as compulsive hand washing. *By the way, as I understand it, the “Hox” is the specific gene being studied and the “Hoxb8” is that gene with a mutation. The doctors said that not only are the mental disorders Trichotillomania and OCD possibly impacted, but also Body Dysmorphic Disorder. I found this specifically interesting just because of the way mental disorders can sort of link themselves together and have similar traits, and according to this study, similar genes/mutated genes.
“Laboratory analyses of the brains of the mutant mice then revealed molecular footprints of Hoxb8 activity in areas that had already been implicated in control of animal grooming and generation of human OCD symptoms, such as compulsive hand washing.”
The next step in the experiment process would be adding certain medications used for Trichotillomania (also known as trich) and OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) to see if the effects of those drugs would cut back on the mice grooming. I’ve yet to see a follow-up article with a test including medications thus far but please do let me know if you find anything on this topic, or even contradicting this study, as its all very interesting information!
I think this is really compelling information!!! Personally, based on my family’s history of trich, I think the disorder can and does run in families. In my own family, for the past 4 generations, the first-born female is the lucky winner and recipient of trich, and who knows how far up the family tree that went. I have also in the past heard of children developing trich after having some sort of an infection and am curious as to what truth there is in that. There could be numerous reasons why mental disorders develop in the first place, it doesn’t necessarily have to be one way.