Schizophrenia isn't a single disease, but eight specific genetic disorders

Clusters of genes working together, instead of individual genes, pose the most risk for developing schizophrenia, according to a new
study at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Researchers found that there are specific groups of genes that can contribute to eight different variations of schizophrenia - each with a unique set of symptoms.

While individual genes can have some associations with schizophrenia, groups of these genes interacting with one another can significantly increase the risk of illness, by 70 to 100 percent, reports Jim Dryden on Washington University's website.

Different symptoms associated with different genes

Researchers found that certain characteristics or symptoms of schizophrenia were associated with different sets of genes. For example, individuals experiencing hallucinations and delusions had certain genetic variations, while others who had disorganized speech or behavior had a different set of DNA changes.

“Genes don’t operate by themselves,” said co-author of the study, C. Robert Cloninger, MD, PhD. “They function in concert much like an orchestra, and to understand how they’re working, you have to know not just who the members of the orchestra are but how they interact.”

Using the same approach in looking at genetic clusters, it may be possible to better understand other conditions, the researchers said.

“People have been looking at genes to get a better handle on heart disease, hypertension and diabetes, and it’s been a real disappointment,” Cloninger said. “Most of the variability in the severity of disease has not been explained, but we were able to find that different sets of genetic variations were leading to distinct clinical syndromes. So I think this really could change the way people approach understanding the causes of complex diseases.”

Source: Washington University

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