Scientists link genes to schizophrenia

Major variations in the number of genes carried in a person's genome have been linked with schizophrenia, in a study that provides further evidence of the important role played by genetics in raising the risk of the illness, which affects one in 100 people.

Scientists have found that patients with schizophrenia are more likely to have variations in the number of copies of certain genes. Scientists compared the DNA in the genomes of 1,735 adults with schizophrenia with the DNA of 3,483 healthy people. The researchers found significant differences between the two groups in terms of copy number variations – the number of copies of each gene carried within a given genome.

"When we compared the genome of patients with schizophrenia to those of healthy subjects, we found variations in genes that regulate brain functions, several of which are already known to be perturbed by patients with this disorder," said Hakon Hakonarson, director of the Centre for Applied Genomics at the Children's Hospital in Philadelphia.

Dr Hakonarson, whose study in published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said that knowing how genes are involved in schizophrenia could lead to new forms of treatment.

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