Genetic factors increase risk of schizophrenia

August 12th, 2008 - 4:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Aug 12 (IANS) A major breakthrough in research has helped a better understanding of how genetic variations cause schizophrenia. Schizophrenia affects approximately one per cent of the world’s population and is characterised by disruptions in language, thought, perception, social activity and volition.

Prestigious scientific journals Nature and Nature Genetics recently published the results of three international schizophrenia research teams, all of which identified genetic variations associated with the disease.

“Together, these three papers represent a landmark week in schizophrenia genetics,” said Byran Mowry of Queensland University, who co-authored the Nature paper. “This is an important step in helping to unravel the challenging biology of schizophrenia,” he added.

“The human DNA blueprint consists of three billion letters of code, most of which are the same between individuals, but about 10 million of which can take at least two forms,” said Mowry.

“These single nucleotide (SNP) variations are scattered throughout the entire code and particular forms of the letters may either increase risk for a particular disease, or be used as a signpost for nearby variations which cause disease,” said Mowry.

“We were able to show, in a very large sample, that a SNP within the ZNF804A gene on chromosome 2 was associated with an increased risk for schizophrenia.”

The investigation drew upon the expertise of more than 50 researchers from 30 international institutions and involved over 7,000 schizophrenia sufferers worldwide, including more than 400 Australian patients, recruited primarily through Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research (QCMHR).

Mowry said that while the results were encouraging, further research was required. “It is crucial that we identify these mutations and work out how they contribute to the symptoms of schizophrenia,” he said.

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