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article imageGenetic causes of schizophrenia are 'considerable'

By Tim Sandle     Jul 26, 2014 in Science
The number of known genetic variants linked with schizophrenia has more than tripled, following a massive genome-wide association study.
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by a breakdown of thought processes and by impaired emotional responses. Common symptoms include delusions, such as paranoid beliefs; hallucinations and disorganized thinking. Because schizophrenia often runs in families, this suggests that the condition has an underlying genetic basis (with social and environmental factors also contributing). Earlier this year Digital Journal reported on research that argued inherited genes account for most of the genetic risk for schizophrenia. In related research, scientists believe that the trigger for schizophrenia lies in some specific, measurable proteins found in the brain.
With the new research, by analyzing the genomes of about 150,000 participants, nearly 37,000 of whom were diagnosed with schizophrenia, scientists have now identified 108 variants tied to the psychiatric disorder. The genes that stood out from the analysis are involved in a variety of functions, including immunity, gene regulation, and neuronal communication. With this, the researchers conclude that there are many, many genetic factors involved in schizophrenia.
Commenting on this, Thomas Insel, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health, which helped fund the study, said in a research note: "While the suspect variation identified so far only explains only about 3.5 percent of the risk for schizophrenia, these results warrant exploring whether using such data to calculate an individual’s risk for developing the disorder might someday be useful in screening for preventive interventions. Even based on these early predictors, people who score in the top 10 percent of risk may be up to 20-fold more prone to developing schizophrenia."
The findings have been published in the journal Nature. The research is called "Biological insights from 108 schizophrenia-associated genetic loci."
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