Scientists identify 10 genes whose disruptions increase risk of schizophrenia

18:50   16 October, 2019

Genetics from Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have discovered 10 previously unknown mutations, the appearance of which in human DNA dramatically increases the likelihood of developing schizophrenia and other mental disorders. Their study will create the first effective drugs for this disease, the press service of the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG), TASS reported.

For the first time, they have managed to isolate 10 genes at once, the disturbances in their work sharply increase the likelihood of schizophrenia.

Two of them are associated with the work of glutamate receptors, potential targets for future cures for this disease. Moreover, the analysis shows that there are a lot of undiscovered sections of DNA of this kind, said Tarjinder Singh, a Harvard geneticist.

According to current WHO estimates, about 21 million people on the planet suffer from schizophrenia, with half of them not receiving proper care from the state and medical services. A significant proportion of schizophrenia carriers occur in young people aged 15 to 35 years.

So far, neurophysiologists can not say exactly how such disorders arise and how they should be treated. In recent years, genetics have found several hundred genes that are relatively weakly associated with schizophrenia, but scientists could not say how mutations in these DNA regions cause schizophrenia and how the consequences of their appearance can be suppressed.

Genetic roots of schizophrenia

Singh and his colleagues made this problem easier to study by discovering several genes at once, disorders in the structure of which strongly affect the likelihood of schizophrenia. These mutations, as scientists explain, are very rare, which is why in the past they could not be detected.

To discover them, genetics gathered a gigantic database, which included the genomes of approximately 25 thousand patients with schizophrenia and approximately 100 thousand people who did not suffer from this disease. These people, Singh explains, were selected on the condition that all their relatives over the past five generations did not receive a diagnosis of schizophrenia and did not have any other mental disorders.

This approach allowed scientists to immediately identify ten rare mutations, the appearance of which increased the likelihood of developing schizophrenia by about 4-50 times. These, in particular, included “typos” in the genes GRIN2A, GRIA3 and SP4, which are involved in the transmission of signals between nerve cells and at the same time were not previously associated with impaired brain function, including autism and various forms of mental retardation.

The study of these mutations and genes, scientists hope, will help them understand how to correct violations in their work medically and help people suffering from schizophrenia to get rid of this disease.

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