Scientists at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have identified two new genes associated with schizophrenia and discovered a third gene that increases the risk of both schizophrenia and autism. The study also found that the risk of schizophrenia conferred by these rare genes is consistent across ethnicities, which may have implications for developing new treatments for the disease. The study, which was published in the journal ‘Nature Genetics’ on March 13, analyzed existing data sets of 35,828 cases and 107,877 controls and compared the gene sequences of people with schizophrenia to those without the illness.
Effects of Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness that affects about 1 in 100 people and can result in individuals feeling as though they have lost touch with reality. The researchers’ work builds on a previous study that identified 10 genes linked to schizophrenia but only in individuals of European ancestry. This new research focused on individuals of diverse ethnic backgrounds and found that rare, damaging variants in evolutionarily constrained genes have a similar impact on the risk of this across different populations.
The third gene identified in the study, PCLO, was previously associated with schizophrenia but has now been identified as carrying a shared risk for that and autism. This finding raises questions about how we categorize and treat brain diseases. According to Dr. Alexander Charney, one of the study’s co-senior corresponding authors, “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.”
The researchers caution that not every person with it has rare, damaging variants in the identified genes. The disease is multifactorial and has no single cause. The scientists plan to continue their research by investigating how these genes may relate to specific behaviors or symptoms of it and identifying drugs that may target the genes.
Novel genes that may increase risk for schizophrenia identified
Global Teamwork Needed
The study’s authors also emphasize the importance of global collaboration in this type of research. Dr. Laura Huckins, a co-senior corresponding author on the study, says, “Our ultimate shared goal in the field is to improve patients’ lives, and we are grateful to our collaborators who partnered with us on this effort.” This study is an important step towards understanding the genetic factors that contribute to schizophrenia, and it may lead to the development of new treatments for this debilitating illness.
Source: Mount Sinai Health System