Scientists have been searching for the genetic roots of schizophrenia for decades. If a few common genetic glitches, or mutations, were linked to the disorder it could open new strategies for treatment and diagnosis. But new research suggests that schizophrenia is a lot more complicated than many scientists had hoped.
People with schizophrenia have problems with thinking and concentration. They may hear voices others don’t hear or believe their thoughts are being broadcast to the world. Schizophrenia affects about 1 in 100 adults nationwide. Symptoms usually first appear in older teens or young adults.
Three new studies, funded in part by NIH, compared the genomes of thousands of patients with schizophrenia with thousands without the disorder. The research teams found that patients with schizophrenia were more likely to have several different, unusual genetic quirks. Many of the mutations disrupt genes that are important to brain development.
“We’re moving toward an understanding of the causes of the disease, but we’ve only explained a tiny fraction of why people might develop schizophrenia,” said Dr. Pamela Sklar of Massachusetts General Hospital. “Much more work needs to be done to connect the specific genetic changes to the full spectrum of the disorder.”