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International team sheds new light on biology underlying schizophrenia
Date:7/21/2014

the genome-wide association study (GWAS) published in Nature, the authors looked at 36,989 genetic samples from schizophrenia patients and 113,075 healthy volunteers and found 108 specific locations in the human genome associated with risk for schizophrenia. Eighty-three of those loci had not previously been linked to the illness.

"Large collaborative efforts such as this one are needed to identify genes that influence complex disorders," said Dr. Jo Knight, Senior Scientist and Joanne Murphy Professor in Behavioural Science, who spearheaded CAMH's involvement in this project. "The result is a major advance in understanding the genetic basis of brain functioning in schizophrenia," said Dr. Knight, who is also Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto.

The study was conducted within CAMH's Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute, and CAMH researchers Dr. James Kennedy and Dr. Clement Zai were also on the study team.

The study implicates genes expressed in brain tissue, particularly those related to the functioning of brain cells (neurons) and of the channels enabling chemical and electrical signaling between neurons (synapses). These include genes that are active in pathways controlling synaptic plasticity a function essential to learning and memory and pathways governing activity in the target cell receiving signals.

Additionally, the researchers found a smaller number of genes associated with schizophrenia that are active in the immune system. This discovery offers some support for a previously hypothesized link between schizophrenia and immunological processes. The study also found an association between the illness and the region of the genome that holds DRD2 the gene that produces the dopamine receptor targeted by all approved medications for schizophrenia suggesting that other loci uncovered in the study may point to additional therapeutic targets.

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Contact: Kate Richards
kate.richards@camh.ca
416-535-8501 x36015
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Source:Eurekalert

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