August 9, 2011
Causes of Schizophrenia
(Ivanhoe Newswire) "“ A rare "de novo" protein-altering mutations- genetic errors that are present in patients but not in their parents- play a role in more than 50 percent of "sporadic", not hereditary, cases of schizophrenia, according to this study.
A group led by Maria Karayiorgou, MD, and Joseph A. Gogos, MD, PhD, examined the genomes of patients with schizophrenia and their families, as well as healthy control groups.
Researchers wondered whether other, previously undetectable, de novo mutations accounted for an even greater percentage of sporadic cases. Using state-of-the-art "deep sequencing," they examined the nucleotide bases of almost all the genes in the human genome. This time they found 40 mutations, all from different genes and most of them protein-altering. The results point the way to finding more, perhaps even hundreds, of mutations that contribute to the genetics of schizophrenia"”a necessary step toward understanding how the disease develops.
"Identification of these damaging de novo mutations has fundamentally transformed our understanding of the genetic basis of schizophrenia," Bin Xu, PhD, assistant professor of clinical neurobiology at Columbia University Medical Center and first author of the stud, was quoted as saying.
"The fact that the mutations are all from different genes," Karayiorgou was quoted as saying, "is particularly fascinating. It suggests that many more mutations than we suspected may contribute to schizophrenia. This is probably because of the complexity of the neural circuits that are affected by the disease; many genes are needed for their development and function." Karayiorgou and her team will now search for recurring mutations, which may provide definitive evidence that any specific mutation contributes to schizophrenia.
The potentially large number of mutations makes a gene-therapy approach to treating schizophrenia unlikely. Researchers suspect, however, that all of the mutations affect the same neural circuitry mechanisms. "Using innovative neuroscience methods," co-author Dr. Joseph Gogos, MD, PhD, and associate professor of physiology and neuroscience at Columbia University Medical Center, was quoted as saying, "we hope to identify those neural circuit dysfunctions, so we can target them for drug development."
The study's results also help to explain two puzzles: the persistence of schizophrenia, despite the fact that those with the disease do not tend to pass down their mutations through children; and the high global incidence of the disease, despite large environmental variations.
SOURCE: Nature Genetics, published online August 9, 2011