Gene mutation breakthrough may help make schizophrenia history
A team of researchers has found that 'de novo' gene mutations play a key role in triggering schizophrenia and preferentially disrupt specific sets of proteins which have related functions in the brain, potentially paving the way for the development of more effective treatments.
Scientists examined DNA blood samples from 623 schizophrenia sufferers and their parents, and found that these pathways are involved in modulating the strength of connections between nerve cells and play important roles in brain development, learning, memory and cognition.
Professor Mike Owen from Cardiff University's MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics, who co-led the research said that new findings along with evidences from previous work confirm the importance of these and related sets of proteins.
"This degree of convergence from several studies is unprecedented in schizophrenia genetics and tells us that for the first time we have a handle on one of the core brain processes that is disrupted in the disorder," he added.
As well as identifying how genetic mutations impact on brain function the findings also indicate an overlap with the causes of other neurodevelopmental disorders including autism and intellectual disability.
Professor Hugh Perry, Chair of the MRC Neurosciences and Mental Health Board said that understanding how our genetic code contributes to Schizophrenia is crucial if we are to develop better, safer treatments.
Perry said this study adds a body of rapidly emerging research being funded by the Medical Research Council on the role of the genome in mental illness. Such advances in developmental biology will help us to unravel the complexity of emotional and behavioral disturbances.
The study is published in the journal Nature.
(Posted on 24-01-2014)