New research offers the most insight on the genetic basis of schizophrenia

According to the World Health Organization, schizophrenia is a serious psychiatric condition that begins in late adolescence or early adulthood and affects one in every 300 persons globally.

New research offers the most insight on the genetic basis of schizophrenia
An MR image of the human brain. Image Credit: University of Arizona Health Sciences.

Specific genes that potentially play major roles in the psychiatric disease were found in a report published in Nature on April 8th, 2022. Researchers, including Ayman Fanous, MD, studied DNA from 76,755 people with schizophrenia and 243,649 people without it in the biggest genetic study of schizophrenia to better understand the genes and biological processes that underlie the disorder.

Previous research has shown associations between schizophrenia and many DNA sequence changes, but rarely has it been possible to link the findings to specific genes. We have been able to link many of them to specific genes, a necessary step in what remains a difficult journey toward understanding the causes of this disorder and identifying new treatments.

Dr Fanous, Chair, Department of Psychiatry, University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix

Dr Fanous is also the chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Banner University Medical Center Phoenix.

As a member of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, which includes hundreds of researchers from 45 countries, Dr Fanous participated in the study.

The study discovered more genetic connections to schizophrenia than ever before, in 287 distinct sections of the genome, which is the blueprint for the human body’s DNA.

The research team discovered a “substantial increase” in the number of genomic areas linked with schizophrenia in the study, which is the biggest genome-wide association project to date. Researchers then utilized advanced algorithms to identify 120 genes that are likely to contribute to the disorder within these areas.

Despite the fact that there are many genetic variants linked to schizophrenia, the study found that they are focused on genes expressed in neurons, indicating that neurons are the most relevant source of pathology. The findings also imply that irregular neuron function in schizophrenia impacts a variety of brain locations, which might explain the disorder’s wide range of symptoms, which include hallucinations, delusions, and difficulty in rational thinking.

More than 7,000 participants of African American or Latino ancestry were included in the study, which experts believe is a tiny step toward ensuring that genetic research benefits those who are not of European ancestry.

To better understand the complexities of the genome and the mutations that lead to psychiatric disorders, it is very important that we leverage the power of larger, more ethnically diverse datasets. We encourage people of all ancestries to participate in genetic studies and help uncover the genetic causes of these illnesses.”

Dr Fanous, Chair, Department of Psychiatry, University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of all Americans will experience a mental disease or condition at some point in their life. One in every 25 Americans suffers from a serious mental condition such as schizophrenia.

The College of Medicine–Phoenix is building a translational research ecosystem in neuroscience and mental health to serve the needs of communities in Arizona. We are immensely proud to have Dr Fanous leading research initiatives in genetics and genomics, in partnership with the Phoenix VA Health Care System, to identify novel therapies that will provide personalized care for patients.”

Guy Reed, MD, MS, Dean, University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix

This international study conducted by Cardiff University throws the most insight into the genetic origin of schizophrenia too far.

Source:
Journal reference:

Trubetskoy, V., et al. (2022) Mapping genomic loci implicates genes and synaptic biology in schizophrenia. Nature. doi.org/10.1038/s41586-022-04434-5.

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