Gene discoveries offer clues for schizophrenia

If the findings of a new study are anything to go by, researchers may well have found the answers to unlock the mystery behind schizophrenia, one of the most complex and devastating mental disorders.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina claim to have found 22 locations in the human genetic code that are involved in the development of the schizophrenia. The number includes 13 locations that are named for the very first time.

“If finding the causes of schizophrenia is like solving a jigsaw puzzle, then these new results give us the corners and some of the pieces on the edges,” study’s lead author, Dr. Patrick F. Sullivan, a geneticist from the University of North Carolina said. “We’ve debated this for a century, and we are now zeroing in on answers.”

The study
For the purpose of the study, researchers embarked a three stage trial for the purpose.
The trial began with a multi-stage analysis that looked at 5,001 schizophrenia cases patients and 6,243 control patients. This was followed by a meta-analysis of previously conducted genome-wide association studies, and finally the researchers replicated the single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 168 genomic locations in independent samples.
A total of 59,000 people were assessed in the study.

The researchers identified two pathways in the study – first calcium channel pathway and second “micro-RNA 137” pathway.

The researchers observed that the calcium channel pathway included the genes CACNA1C and CACNB2, whose proteins touch each other as part of an important process in nerve cells.
Likewise, the “micro-RNA 137″ pathway included its namesake gene, MIR137, a regulator of neuronal development. Researchers also identified at 12 other genes that were regulated by MIR137.

“This study gives us the clearest picture to date of two different pathways that might be going wrong in people with schizophrenia,” Sullivan, director of the Center for Psychiatric Genomics at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, said.

“Now we need to concentrate our research very urgently on these two pathways in our quest to understand what causes this disabling mental illness.”

The findings of the study are reported in the journal Nature Genetics.

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