Researchers Gain New Insight Into Possible Schizophrenia Genes

By Anjalee Khemlani | Jul 23, 2014 03:21 AM EDT

Schizophrenia has long been thought to be a genetic disorder, but recent studies have proven a link, according to Reuters.

The new study shows there are 108 locations on the human genome that may define a person's risk of developing schizophrenia, but the findings won't affects those who are already diagnosed with the psychiatric disorder.

"The exciting thing about having little openings is it gives you a place to dig and make big openings," Steve McCarroll, director of genetics for the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, told Reuters.

McCarroll is a member of the Schizophrenia Working Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, which published the study in the journal Nature.

The belief that the disorder is genetic came from the statistic that 10 percent of those with schizophrenia have a parent or sibling who also have it. About 1 percent of Americans have the disorder and develop symptoms in their teens or 20s.

Watch video

Of the 108 locations, 83 were newly identified in the study, which involved 80,000 people both with and without the disorder.

"Every one of us has dozens of these variants," McCarroll said. "Schizophrenia patients on average have more than unaffected individuals but that's only true on average, not every individual case."

The gene locations that define a person's risk are tied to how brain cells communicate, as well as how a person learns and remembers, and the disorder is tied to a person's immunity.

" Independent of genes expressed in brain, associations were enriched among genes expressed in tissues that have important roles in immunity, providing support for the speculated link between the immune system and schizophrenia," according to the abstract in the journal.

"We have a long way to go," said Dr. Steve Hyman, director of the Stanley Center. "One thing I often say is it would be a great tragedy to end up with a list of genes. The goal is obviously to understand the disease process and develop treatments."

Latest Stories