Past, present, and future of genetic research in borderline personality disorder

Anahita Bassir Nia, Matthew C. Eveleth, Jonathan M. Gabbay, Yonis J. Hassan, Bosi Zhang, M. Mercedes Perez-Rodriguez

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a major mental illness with a lifetime prevalence of approximately 1–3%, characterized by a persistent pattern of instability in relationships, mood, impulse regulation, and sense of self. This results in impulsive self-damaging behavior, high suicide rates, and severe functional impairment. BPD has a complex, multifactorial etiology, resulting from an interaction among genetic and environmental substrates, and has moderate to high heritability based on twin and family studies. However, our understanding of the genetic architecture of BPD is very limited. This is a critical obstacle since genetics can pave the way for identifying new treatment targets and developing preventive and disease-modifying pharmacological treatments which are currently lacking. We review genetic studies in BPD, with a focus on limitations and challenges and future directions. Genetic research in BPD is still in its very early stages compared to other major psychiatric disorders. Most early genetic studies in BPD were non-replicated association studies in small samples, focused on single candidate genes. More recently, there has been one genome-wide linkage study and a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of subclinical BPD traits and a first GWAS in a relatively modest sample of patients fulfilling full diagnostic criteria for the disorder. Although there are adequate animal models for some of the core dimensions of BPD, there is a lack of translational research including data from animal models in BPD. Research in more pioneering fields, such as imaging genetics, deep sequencing and epigenetics, holds promise for elucidating the pathophysiology of BPD and identifying new treatment targets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-68
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent Opinion in Psychology
StatePublished - Jun 2018


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