Gene that doubles the risk of schizophrenia identified

Findings could lead to greater understanding of physical faults that might lead to psychiatric disorder

Science Editor

A gene thought to be involved in nerve development can double the risk of schizophrenia when it is damaged, according to a pioneering study into one of most costly mental illnesses.

The findings are further evidence of a genetic basis for schizophrenia – which affects about one in every 100 people at some time of their lives – and could lead to a greater understanding of the physical faults that might lead to the psychiatric disorder in some susceptible people.

The chronic, long-term illness, which results in persistent delusions and hallucinations, is estimated to cost the NHS about £2bn a year in care and treatment alone. But the extra burden on patients, their families and the criminal justice system is thought to be at least twice as high.

Scientists said the genetic fault they have discovered is also associated with a separate inherited disorder that results in learning difficulties and autism. This link, they said, is probably the result of them sharing a common biological pathway at the genetic level.

The gene linked to schizophrenia, called TOP3B, is normally involved in unwinding the DNA double helix to allow other genes to function, especially when the nerve cells of the brain are developing, both in the womb and during the crucial first years of life.

If someone is missing one of the two versions of the gene they inherit from their parents then they run a substantially higher risk of developing schizophrenia than the rest of the population, said Aarno Palotie of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge.

“We’ve found that if one gene is missing it causes twice the risk of schizophrenia, but if both are missing then all these people either have severe schizophrenia or severe learning disabilities,” said Dr Palotie, who led the study.

“This is a tremendous discovery for our team. Not only have we uncovered vital information about the biology behind schizophrenia, but we have also linked this same biological process to a disorder associated with learning difficulties,” he said.

“Our findings offer great hope for future studies into the genetic basis of schizophrenia and other brain disorders, potentially finding new drug targets against them,” he added.

The study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, was based on an extensive analysis of an isolated population in the municipality of Kuusamo in north-east Finland, where the prevalence of schizophrenia is about three times higher than the rest of the country. Genome scans for single genetic faults led to the discovery that faulty or missing versions of the TOP3B gene were linked with an increased risk of the mental disorder.

The analysis also revealed a link with fragile-X syndrome, an inherited disorder associated with autism.

However, although there is a strong genetic component to schizophrenia – accounting for perhaps 80 per cent of the risk – the disorder is also influenced by upbringing and environment, which probably interact with genetic predispositions.

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
Arts and Entertainment
film

Marvel has released the first teaser trailer a week early after it leaked online

Extras
indybest
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
News
i100
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Life and Style
health
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

    History Teacher

    £95 - £105 per day: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Plymouth i...

    SQL Developer - Cardiff - £40,000

    £30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits and bonus: Ashdown Group: SQL Developer -...

    SQL Developer - Cardiff - £40,000

    £30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits and bonus: Ashdown Group: SQL Developer ...

    General Cover Teacher

    £120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: The Job:TEACHERS REQUIREDWe are...

    Day In a Page

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?