New gene clues for schizophrenia

Schizophrenia and Bipolar link could help thousands

In a shock finding scientists have established that schizophrenia is genetically similar to bipolar disorder.

They have also identified thousands of tiny genetic variations that could account for more than a third of the inherited risk of schizophrenia.

The findings, came when work from three separate teams, who analysed DNA from 15,000 mental health patients along with nearly 50,000 healthy people, was put together.

The findings suggest that schizophrenia is much more complex than previously thought, and can arise not only from rare genetic variants, but common ones as well.

Schizophrenia affects up to 1% of adults worldwide. Research linking the condition to specific genes was published last year, but it is thought they accounted for only a few cases it is now thought they could account for as many as 90 per cent.

It is hoped the new findings, which were published in the scientific journal, Nature, could lead to new diagnostic tests and treatments for the condition.

The researchers stress that more work is needed to establish exactly how the genetic variants translate into schizophrenia.

But researcher Dr Pamela Sklar, of Massachusetts General Hospital, said: “We fully expect that future work will assemble them into meaningful pathways that will teach us about the biology of schizophrenia.”

Michael O’Donovan, professor of psychiatric genetics at the Medical Research Council‘s neurogenetics centre in Cardiff, told the Telegraph: ‘This is a pretty major breakthrough for us because before today you could count on the thumb of one hand the number of common [genetic] variants that have been reliably identified for schizophrenia.

‘Some of us were surprised to find that not only did these genes contribute to schizophrenia but they also contribute to bipolar disorder. So that really suggests that the two disorders are not really as distinct as we thought in psychiatry.’


 
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