July 21, 2014 (Toronto) As part of a multinational, collaborative effort, researchers from Canada's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) have helped identify over 100 locations in the human genome associated with the risk of developing schizophrenia, in what is the largest genomic study published on any psychiatric disorder to date. The findings, published online in Nature, point to biological mechanisms and pathways that may underlie schizophrenia, and could lead to new approaches to treating the disorder, which has seen little innovation in drug development in more than 60 years.
The research was led by senior author Michael O'Donovan at Cardiff University School of Medicine, and CAMH was the only Canadian site in the collaboration.
Schizophrenia, a debilitating mental illness that affects approximately one out of every 100 people worldwide, is characterized by hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thinking, and often emerges in the teens and early 20s. Its lifetime impact on individuals and society is high, both in terms of direct health-care and other costs, as well as lost productivity and unemployment, which costs an estimated $6.85 billion a year in Canada.
Medications currently on the market treat only one of the symptoms of the illness (psychosis), and there are no effective treatments for the debilitating cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia. In part, treatment options are limited because the biological mechanisms underlying schizophrenia have not been understood.
Recent research focusing on the genetic underpinnings of schizophrenia has revealed the complexity of the illness. Evidence suggests that it is caused by the combined effects of many genes, and roughly two dozen genomic regions have been found to be associated with schizophrenia. The new study confirms those earlier findings, and expands our understanding of the genetic basis of schizophrenia and its underlying biology.
|Contact: Kate Richards|
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health