Gene link to psychosis gives hope to sufferers

By Jonathan Thompson
Sunday 09 February 2003 01:00

A leading Oxford professor believes he could be close to identifying the causes of schizophrenia. Professor Timothy Crow's theories could offer hope to millions of sufferers.

Professor Crow will lead research at the Prince of Wales International Centre for SANE Research in Oxford, a new £6m facility, which is the result of an 11-year fundraising campaign by the mental health charity SANE.

Professor Crow believes he has located one of the genes responsible for psychosis – evident in sufferers of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and manic depression.

At the heart of the professor's hypothesis is a gene called ProtocadherinXY, which is believed to give us the power of speech. It is linked to the asymmetry between the left and right sides of the human brain and originally separated our ancestors from the great apes. Professor Crow argues it also sowed the seeds for psychosis.

"This asymmetry in the brain is variable between different individuals, and that is very interesting," explained Professor Crow. "In people who develop illnesses such as schizophrenia, the asymmetry is less marked. If we can understand this process more, there is a possibility for understanding psychotic episodes."

Readers of The Independent on Sunday raised £34,000 in our Christmas appeal for SANELINE, the charity's mental health helpline.

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