Is There A Genetic Link To Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia, arguably one of the most debilitating mental health conditions, is known to be heritable passing from parent to offspring easily. Researchers have been trying to pin point the genes that affect can possibly cause the condition. While there has been no definitive explanation as to how some people are afflicted with the disorder and others aren’t, researchers believe there may be some correlation to variations on some genes and the increased risk of developing the disorder.

During the study, researchers identified gene variants that are rare. Despite being rare within the general population, these variations were more often present in those who developed schizophrenia. These variations substantially increased the risk for a person to develop schizophrenia with in their life time. The risk increases from around a 1 percent chance to a 10 percent chance.

An additional discovery was that three different disorders: intellectual development, autism, and schizophrenia, had links to the same region on number 7 chromosome. This supports Dr. Jennifer Mulle and her associate’s theory that there is a neuro-developmental link between the disorders.

Another study, that is mirroring Dr. Mulle’s work, took a look at the genome for copy numbers. These abnormal number of gene copies exist frequently within the human genome and can cause a variety of problems from physical to mental disorders. Dr. George Kirov and his colleges found that of the 70 variants they studied, all the variants could be linked to developmental delays, autism, and intellectual deficiency. These genetic abnormalities could also be linked to the onset of schizophrenia.

“It seems that we are at a critical point in the genetics of schizophrenia – the identification of gene variants that substantially increase the risk for schizophrenia,” Said Dr. John Krystal. “However, we have a very limited understanding of how these genes alter brain development to produce schizophrenia and other disorders. This knowledge would seem to hold clues about mechanisms of prevention and treatment.”

Even though researchers have found that there are gene variants that may play a part in the development of schizophrenia, the mechanism still alludes them. These same variants can produce a myriad of other psychological disorders. These disorders alone or combined are not typically linked to the development of schizophrenia. A person with autism or intellectual deficiency does not necessarily develop schizophrenia.

“The failure of our genome to follow DSM-V is not simply a shortcoming of our diagnostic manual, rather it is yet another reminder that there are fundamental aspects of biology of psychiatric disorders that we do not understand.” Dr. Krystal said of the studies.

The teams intend to continue studying the variations in hopes of finding the answers.