A new study has identified two previously unknown genes linked to schizophrenia and indicated a third one that carries a risk for both schizophrenia and autism. This new finding, published in Nature Genetics, may point to new therapeutics.
Schizophrenia affects about one in 100 people in how they think, feel, and behave. People with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality, which can be distressing for their loved ones.
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The new research also revealed that the schizophrenia risk linked to these rare damaging genes is maintained across ethnicities, the multi-centre study led by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, US, demonstrated, as reported by PTI. The study claims to be the first known work of its kind studying schizophrenia across ethnicities.
The researchers found the two risk genes, SRRM2 and AKAP11, by comparing the gene sequences of people with schizophrenia to those of healthy controls. The meta-analysis included existing datasets of up to 35,828 cases and 107,877 controls.
A previous study identified 10 risk genes for schizophrenia, conducted in people with predominantly white European ancestry. This study was built upon that.
"By focusing on a subset of genes, we discovered variants that could potentially lead to new medicines for schizophrenia," said lead author Dongjing Liu.
"Also significant is that by studying people of various ancestral backgrounds, we found that rare damaging variants in evolutionarily constrained genes confer a similar magnitude of schizophrenia risk among those different populations and that genetic factors previously established in predominantly white people have now been extended to non-whites for this debilitating disease," said Liu.
The third gene, PCLO, although previously suggested to have links to schizophrenia, is now identified as having a shared risk for schizophrenia and autism, the study revealed.
This finding questions how we think about brain diseases as a whole, suggested Alexander W. Charney, a co-senior corresponding author of the study and associate professor at Icahn Mount Sinai. "It's been known that there are genetic components shared among illnesses. Clinically, genes could look different in the same family.”
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Furthermore, the same variant in the same family may cause autism for one member and schizophrenia in another, Charney adds. "The idea of the same gene having different manifestations is very interesting to us, as it could be useful when it comes to treating people in the clinic," said Charney.
The researchers have also cautioned against generalisation and said that not every patient has a rare damaging variant in the identified schizophrenia genes. Schizophrenia is multifactorial.
(With inputs from PTI)