Schizophrenia May Start In Early Brain Development

Rare coding mutations that affect protein function in the brain are more common in people with schizophrenia, according to new research.

And while past studies have shown that genetic variants in general are linked to schizophrenia risk, the new research suggests that specific mutations are more likely to be found in patients who develop the disease than people without it.

Moreover, the genes that affect these mutations, said study senior author Roel Ophoff, could play a critical role in how the brain develops while a baby is in utero.

"Our finding further supports the hypothesis that schizophrenia is a disorder that may originate during the early stages of brain development," Ophoff said.

A 'complex genetic architecture'

The study included more than 1,000 schizophrenia patients from the Netherlands, where scientists compared the DNA coding variants of these patients to those from individuals without the condition. The team then tested the findings against another 13,000 schizophrenia patients from the UK.

Overall, the patients with schizophrenia had more of the specific genetic variants than patients without schizophrenia - a discovery that could lead to a better understanding how the disease develops, researchers said.

The largest genomic study on schizophrenia patients, which was published last year in Nature, found that certain genes associated with schizophrenia may also impact nearby genetic "regions" of the brain that hasten the disease process - making the isolation of schizophrenia-specific genes hard to accomplish.

"Even though it's well-known that schizophrenia has a large genetic component, the specific biological mechanisms at work are not well understood," Ophoff said. "Our research shows that rare coding variants throughout the human genome also contribute to this complex genetic architecture."

Source: UCLA
Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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