Genes that cause schizophrenia identified

Genes that cause schizophrenia identified

Scientists claim to have found a group of genes that cause schizophrenia, a breakthrough which they say could soon lead to new and better treatment for the complex mental illness that is thought to run in families.

An international team led by researchers from Indiana University in the US studied genetic information of thousands of schizophrenia patients and healthy controls and identified a comprehensive group of genes that can show if a person is at higher or lower risk of developing the disease.

Evaluating the biological pathways in which the genes are active, the researchers also proposed a model of schizophrenia as a disease emerging from a mix of genetic variations that affect brain development and neuronal connections along with environmental factors, particularly stress.

“At its core, schizophrenia is a disease of decreased cellular connectivity in the brain, precipitated by environmental stress during brain development, among those with genetic vulnerability,” said lead study author Alexander Niculescu, an associate professor of psychiatry and medical neuroscience at the IU School of Medicine.“For first time we have a comprehensive list of the genes that have the best evidence for involvement in schizophrenia,” Niculescu said in a statement.

Schizophrenia affects about one per cent of people in the US. The disorder is marked by symptoms such as hallucinations, paranoid thoughts, and disorganized thinking. Although it is treatable, many refuse treatment because of the side effects.

The new findings, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, could lead to better tests to help detect who is most at the risk of developing the disease, prompting early intervention and treatment, Dr Niculescu said. When the test estimating the risk for schizophrenia is refined, it could provide guidance to caregivers and health care professionals about young people in families with a history of the disease, he said.

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