DNA hope on schizophrenia: Research breakthrough points at over 100 genes

Estimated that schizophrenia costs the UK taxpayer about £2bn a year

Science Editor

The largest study ever undertaken into the genetic basis of mental illnesses has found more than 100 genes that play some kind of role in the development of schizophrenia – one of the most common of the serious psychiatric disorders.

Scientists believe they are closer than they have ever been to understanding the complex interplay between genes and upbringing that can result in some people being at high risk of developing schizophrenia, which usually strikes in late adolescence or early adulthood.

Schizophrenia affects about one in every 100 people and is marked by hallucinations and delusions where patients hear voices or believe that other people are trying to control or read their minds, causing fearfulness, withdrawal and extreme agitation.

READ MORE: Is schizophrenia the most misunderstood mental illness?

The identification of the precise locations in the human genome that are involved with the illness could lead to both a fundamental understanding of its causes as well aid the development of new treatments or drugs, the researchers said.

The huge international study by the Schizophrenia Working Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium analysed the DNA of about 37,000 schizophrenia patients and compared the smallest mutations to those found in about 113,000 healthy people.

The scientists identified about 128 independent genetic variants at 108 locations on the human chromosomes that contribute significantly to susceptibility to schizophrenia – 83 of these sites have never before been linked to the illness, the scientists said.

“By studying the genome, we are getting a better handle on the genetic variations that are making people vulnerable to psychiatric disease,” said Tom Insel, director of the US National Institute of Mental Health, which co-funded the study.

It is estimated that schizophrenia costs the UK taxpayer about £2bn a year in care and treatment, with further unquantified personal costs for patients and family members. The global drugs bill alone is estimated to be £12.5bn a year, not including hospital stays.

Michael O’Donovan, professor of psychiatric genetics at the Medical Research Council’s neurogenetics centre at Cardiff University said after years of resistance by some medical professionals to the idea of a genetic basis for schizophrenia, the latest study proves it beyond doubt.

“It is absolutely crystal clear now that genetics is involved in schizophrenia and although the biological implications of the genetics are not yet clear, we’re beginning to see patterns emerging from the data,” Professor O’Donovan said.

“The big picture is that large collaborations like this into schizophrenia has the capacity to crack the illness open in the same way that similar studies have done to other diseases with a genetic basis,” he said.

Some of the genes identified by the study, which is published in the journal Nature, are known to be involved with controlling the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that was long suspected of playing a role in the illness.

Other genes are involved with glutamate, another important neurotransmitter, while a few of the newly identified genes play a role in acquiring immunity to infections, which fits with the idea that exposure to viruses in early life may increase a person’s susceptibility to the illness.

Professor O’Donovan said that genes contribute to between about a third and one half of the risk of developing schizophrenia and he would not be surprised if further research involving genome-wide studies reveals up to 1,000 genes that are linked to disease susceptibility.

“The wealth of new findings has the potential to kick-start the development of new treatments in schizophrenia, a process which has stalled for the last 60 years,” he said.

Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy as ECB finally wield the axe
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
film
News
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

    Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

    £50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

    The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

    £27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

    Ashdown Group: Analyst Programmer (Filemaker Pro/ SQL) - Global Media firm

    £50000 per annum + 26 days, pension, private medical : Ashdown Group: A highly...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas