New Genetic Clues to Schizophrenia?
The question of whether there is a genetic basis of schizophrenia has long been debated. This summer the journal Nature reported some exciting results from an international study that support this idea. The study, which, due to its size, involved many research laboratories around the globe, used technology to ‘scan’ the genes of 37,000 people who had a diagnosis of schizophrenia, and of 13,000 people without schizophrenia. A comparison of the two populations revealed 108 gene regions, called loci, where tiny alterations in genetic coding were seen in the schizophrenia group, but were absent from the group that did not have schizophrenia.
Only about a third of the 108 loci had previously been linked to schizophrenia, so this study has generated a huge amount of new information. It is likely that some of the loci will be of no consequence to schizophrenia - but it is also possible that some of the loci will offer new clues to the underpinning causes of schizophrenia. For example, the study produced some robust findings supporting a genetic link between schizophrenia and the immune system and inflammatory responses of the body. The idea of a connection between immune system, inflammation and schizophrenia is not a new one, but the presentation of supporting genetic evidence for this is new and should help advance this area of research significantly.
As this ambitious genetics project continues, it will hopefully shed further light on the biological complexities of schizophrenia and the molecular events that contribute to its onset and progression.
For further reading, these articles are available for download free of charge:
Schizophrenia Working Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium. (2014) Biological insights from 108 schizophrenia-associates genetic loci. Nature, July 22
Flint, J and Munafo, M. (2014) Schizophrenia: Genesis of a complex disease. Nature, July 22