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Researchers: Schizophrenia Comprised of Eight Specific Gene Clusters
- Updated: September 16, 2014
Rather than be a single disease, Schizophrenia is comprised of eight specific gene clusters according to researchers working on a new study. Experts also found that each of these disorders presents with unique symptoms.
Included in the study was Dr. C. Robert Cloninger, senior investigator and Wallace Renard Professor of Psychiatry and Genetics at Washington Hospital and his team. Together, they believe their findings could make it easier to diagnose and treat Schizophrenia, a mental illness characterized by delusions, hallucinations, cognitive issues, abnormal thoughts, and even agitated body movements.
People at highest risk for developing Schizophrenia are those with a family history. According to statistics, about 1% of the US general population has this disorder but for people with a first-degree relative with Schizophrenia, risk increases up to 10%.
Key Facts about Schizophrenia
• Of causes of disability in the United States, Schizophrenia is at the top of the list
• About 75% of people who develop this disorder are between 16 and 25 years of age
• According to previous studies, 25% of people with Schizophrenia achieve complete recovery, 25% continue to have symptoms without improvement, and 50% improve over 10 years
To identify specific genes linked to Schizophrenia, researchers have been conducting studies for years. As reported in Medical News Today, one particular study performed early in 2014 led by researchers from the United Kingdom’s Cardiff University School, 83 new genes associated with the disorder were identified.
Addressing Specific Gene Clusters
However, according to Dr. Cloninger, instead of focusing on certain genes linked to the development of Schizophrenia, he along with his team chose to look at how each gene works together. He goes on to say that genes are not designed to operate along rather function in coordination so to gain a better understanding how they work and interact is the primary goal.
For Dr. Cloninger’s study, published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, genomes of 4,200 people with Schizophrenia, as well as 3,800 people without the disorder, were analyzed. The team looked at close to 700,000 genome areas, finding a variation in one unit of DNA, known as a Single Nucleotide Polymorphism or SNP.
SNPs were compared against the people with Schizophrenia and those without the disorder. From this, researchers found distinct genetic variations. The group with the disorder was divided into subgroups depending on type but also severity of symptoms. From there, how the genetic variations interacted together to produce specific symptoms was reviewed.
Dr. Cloninger and his team found specific gene clusters linked to eight different types of Schizophrenia, which presented identifiable symptoms. In addition, researchers associated with the study discovered one particular cluster of genes that posed a 95% risk for the disorder, which is known to cause delusions and hallucinations.
The outcome of the study – by discovering how genes interact with each other and then leads to good health or specific classes of Schizophrenia, is huge. As a result, frustration felt within the field of Psychiatric genetics is dramatically lessened, giving medical and mental health professionals, as well as patients with Schizophrenia hope for the future.