Researchers identify gene linked to schizophrenia

December 16th, 2009 - 11:22 am ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Dec 16 (IANS) Researchers have identified a new gene that is linked to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
The gene called ABCA13 is active in the hippocampus (part of the brain where information is transferred into memory) and the cortex (brain’s outermost layers), but had not been associated with mental illness.

Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder marked by severely impaired thinking, emotions and behaviour, while bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that causes radical emotional changes.

Allan McRae from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) in Australia says the discovery of the gene was a lucky break.

“We did a genetic analysis on a patient with chronic schizophrenia and discovered he had a break in his DNA, right in the middle of the ABCA13 gene. The break meant that the gene wouldn’t work properly, so we hypothesised that this might be the reason for the illness,” said McRae.

“We tested this theory in another 3,000 people, by examining this gene in schizophrenia, bipolar and depression patients and compared it to people without these conditions.”

They found that ABCA13 gene was linked to people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, says a QIMR release.

“We found that the gene was involved in four percent of individuals with bipolar and two percent of people with schizophrenia,” said McRae. “This is quite significant, since we think that these disorders are caused by hundreds or even thousands of genes.”

This study was published in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

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