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New findings may transform hunt for schizophrenia genes

31 March 2008
Appeared in BioNews 451

Two independent studies published in the journal Science this week suggest that many rare gene mutations may be responsible for causing schizophrenia, challenging the widely held theory that combinations of several relatively common mutations are to blame. The researchers found that very rare genetic disruptions, often unique to the family or even the individual, were up to four times more common in people with schizophrenia.

Dr Matthew Slate, director of the neurogenetics programme at Yale University, who was not involved in the research, agrees that the findings could transform the way in which scientists view brain development and disorders. 'This paper represents a paradigm shift in the way we think about identifying genes in schizophrenia', he told The New York Times.

Schizophrenia is a disease which affects 1 in 100 people and onset, typically characterised by hallucinations and delusions, is usually in late adolescence.

The researchers compared the genetic makeup of 150 people with schizophrenia to that of 268 unaffected people in the search for genes disrupted by large deletions or duplications. They found that 15 per cent of schizophrenia patients carried such mutations, compared to five per cent of healthy controls, rising to 20 per cent among those who developed schizophrenia during childhood.

Many of the genes identified play a role in brain development, Jack McClellan, a psychiatrist at the University of Washington in Seattle who led the study, told New Scientist. 'A lot of them help regulate how neurones get from point A to point B over time,' he said.

The findings could potentially lead to new drug targets for schizophrenia and may help with a variety of brain disorders including bipolar disorder, autism and depression, claim the researchers.

CSHL scientists part of team that discovers role of rare gene mutations in schizophrenia
GEN |  28 March 2008
Rare gene defects might add up to schizophrenia
The New York Times |  28 March 2008
Study Hints of Gene Link to Risk of Schizophrenia
New Scientist |  27 March 2008
23 March 2009 - by Rose Palmer 
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Picower Institute for Learning and Memory in the US have found that a gene commonly associated with schizophrenia is essential for normal brain development and the growth of new neurons. The finding was reported in the journal Cell and...
19 January 2009 - by Ailsa Stevens 
Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (previously manic depression) may be different manifestations of the same disease, according to a new study published in The Lancet medial journal last week. While hundreds or even thousands of genes, plus environmental factors, may contribute to the development of either condition, some...
20 October 2008 - by Stuart Scott 
A study of almost 500 individuals with schizophrenia has revealed 12 genetic variants thought to increase risk for the disease. Writing in Nature Genetics, the researchers, based at Cardiff University, Wales, UK, revealed that one variant, on chromosome 2, held particular significance. The researchers scanned the genomes...
1 August 2008 - by Ailsa Stevens 
Three independent studies have identified gene variants which contribute significantly to schizophrenia risk, taking steps towards understanding the cause of this highly complex condition which affects 1 in 100 people. Two of the three gene variants discovered were rare, but conferred 12 and 15 percent higher risks...
10 December 2007 - by Ailsa Stevens 
US researchers at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research last week reported the discovery of nine new genetic markers for schizophrenia. The study - published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences - used a novel whole genome scanning method to identify sections of genetic code...
5 November 2006 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
UK researchers have identified a genetic variation associated with an increased risk of schizophrenia in people with a strong family history of the condition. The team, based at Edinburgh University, discovered that individuals who inherit a particular version of the neuregulin (NRG1) gene have nearly three...
18 November 2005 - by BioNews 
Scottish researchers have identified another gene involved in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (manic depression), a discovery that could lead to new drug treatments for the conditions. The team, based at the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, has shown that an altered version of a gene called PDE4B is linked to...
24 October 2005 - by BioNews 
A new study provides more evidence that a gene which affects levels of a key brain chemical is involved in schizophrenia. A team based at Stanford University in California, US, found that children with a single, 'low-activity' copy of a gene called COMT are at higher risk of developing psychotic...
15 April 2005 - by BioNews 
A person's risk of developing a psychotic illness such as schizophrenia after smoking cannabis as a teenager is affected by their genetic make-up, say UK researchers. A new study to be published in the journal Biological Psychiatry shows that a variant of the COMT gene is linked to a five-fold...
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