Genetic Mutation and Predisposition for Schizophrenia

Scientists at the University of Montreal have discovered a surprising link between mutations in a certain gene and a predisposition for schizophrenia, according to an April 2010 publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The mutations occur in a gene known as SHANK3, a gene that has been associated with the development of autism. This research suggests that schizophrenia and autism have a genetic link. The SHANK3 gene functions in the maintenance of nerve cell structure. When it mutates, the shape of the cells become deformed in specific ways. Prior research has found these particular abnormalities in some schizophrenics, which further supports the idea that the SHANK3 gene plays a significant role in schizophrenia.

Researchers involved in this study are optimistic that further studies will show that this particular gene is, in fact, a marker for this serious psychiatric disorder.

Schizophrenia, a disorder that affects approximately 1 percent of the population, has long been believed to have a genetic component. This finding further supports that theory and may eventually lead to a better understanding of what causes this complex illness and how to either prevent it or better treat it.

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