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Gene findings set to revolutionise psychiatric research

Tuesday July 22nd, 2014

Dozens of new genes linked to schizophrenia have been discovered, it was announced today.

Researchers say there are more than 100 locations in the human genome linked to the disease.

Out of the 108 genetic locations named today, 83 are new.

Researchers said they had found genetic risk factors on a "huge and unprecedented scale."

The findings may help revolutionise understanding of the psychiatric condition.

The international project, reported in Nature, was led at Cardiff University, Wales, and involved an analysis of samples from 80,000 people.

One gene, named in a separate study by researchers at University College, London, UK, is also linked to alcoholism and bipolar disorder, it was revealed. Researchers said tackling the GRM3 gene might provide radical new treatments for psychiatric disorders.

Researcher Professor Michael O’Donovan said: "Although we are very excited by the findings, it is important not to overstate or misinterpret them.

“We are still in the early days of trying to understand what causes the disease however collaborations like this and new genetic tools mean we find ourselves in a unique position.

"The wealth of new findings provides a huge number of launch pads for understanding the disease and will kick-start the stalled process of developing new treatments for patients and their families who are even now still stigmatised and blamed for the condition."

He added: "The key challenge now is to translate these new insights into the biological basis of schizophrenia, into new diagnostic tools and novel treatments for patients and finally put an end to the 60-year-wait for new treatments for sufferers worldwide."

Professor Sir Michael Owen, who directs the university's Centre for for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics, said: "Detecting biological risk factors on this scale shows that schizophrenia can be tackled by the same approaches that have already transformed outcomes for people with other diseases."

Biological Insights From 108 Schizophrenia-Associated Genetic Loci by the Schizophrenia Working Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium. Nature 22 July 2014; doi: 10.10.38/nature13595

Tags: Genetics | Mental Health | UK News | World Health

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