Genetic changes identified in onset of schizophrenia

Rare changes in genetic code might be responsible for the onset of schizophrenia, according to research from scientists at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

And because these genetic changes have also been linked to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the past, researchers say that clinical DNA testing could be helpful in diagnosing and treating some of the most complex mental health disorders.

Canadian adults studied

With the help of researchers from the The Centre for Applied Genomics (TCAG) at The Hospital for Sick Children, scientists analyzed the DNA of 459 Canadian adults with schizophrenia. They found a "significant number of large rare changes" in patients' chromosome structure, said Dr. Anne Bassett, Director of CAMH's Clinical Genetics Research Program and Canada Research Chair in Schizophrenia Genetics and Genomic Disorders at the University of Toronto.

Basset reported that up to 8 percent of schizophrenia could be caused, in part, by genetic changes, which represents about one in every 13 people with the disease.

The team also devised an approach to study new and smaller genetic changes that can help researchers who study the illness in the future.

Bassett elaborated:

Moving forward, we will be able to study common pathways affected by these different genetic changes and examine how they affect brain development - the more we know about where the illness comes from, the more possibilities there will be for the development of new treatments.

Tool for coping

Genes and pathways linked to ASD were identified as also having a causal relationship with schizophrenia, including large changes in chromosome structure. The benefit that clinical microarray testing has had for ASD families might also help families struggling with schizophrenia make more sense of the illness, researchers said.

Source: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

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