Researchers link schizophrenia to 108 spots in people’s DNA

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(CNN) After analyzing the DNA of 150,000 people, scientists say they can pinpoint the genetic roots of schizophrenia.

In the largest study of its kind, a consortium of researchers from around the world linked the mental illness to 108 spots on people’s DNA. Previously, scientists had only discovered 30 such locations. The study was published Monday in the journal Nature.

Schizophrenia is a debilitating disease that makes it difficult to separate reality from fantasy. Symptoms such as hearing voices and having delusions can begin as early as the teen years. However, schizophrenia is usually diagnosed in those over age 45.

Schizophrenia affects 1% of the population, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. However, those with a first-degree relative — such a mother or brother — with the disease are 10 times as likely to get it.

It has long been thought that there is some sort of correlation between autoimmune diseases and schizophrenia, but scientists have now cemented a real genetic marker between the two. The genes linked in this study with schizophrenia were mainly associated with neural brain function and the immune system.

Jordan Smaller, co-author of the study, said having an understanding of the genetic makeup of the disease can help better target therapies for the disease.

“The wealth of new findings have the potential to kick-start the development of new treatments in schizophrenia, a process which has stalled for the last 60 years,” study author Michael O’Donovan said in a statement from the Broad Institute, one of the institutes involved in the research.

In fact, there haven’t been any real developments in treatment for schizophrenia since dopamine receptors were first targeted in the early 1950s.

Smaller said that while there is indeed an association between the genetic markers and the disease, he was careful to point out that the relationship is “not at a level that could be used as a diagnostic test.”

In conjunction with the study, the Broad Institute announced a $650 million grant from Connecticut businessman Ted Stanley. The gift, geared toward research and treatment for psychiatric disorders, is the largest grant for psychiatric research in known history.

Stanley’s commitment to mental illness research has been lifelong — inspired by his son, Jonathan, who suffered from bipolar disorder and psychosis in college. Jonathan was able to get treatment with lithium and today is an attorney in Florida.

In 1989, Stanley and his wife, Vada, founded the Stanley Medical Research Institute aimed at finding treatment for mental illness. As Jonathan Stanley once said, “Mental illness had picked a fight with the wrong man.”

Between the grant and the research, many say it could be a new era for mental illness.

“The fact that we were able to detect genetic risk factors on this massive scale shows that schizophrenia can be tackled by the same approaches that have already transformed our understanding of other diseases,” O’Donovan said.

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8 comments

  • Marilyn Balko

    My son has been battling schizophrenia for over 10 years. He is now 32. He has been given abilify, risperdal, invega oral and injections. He most recently was taking latuda. He has not been on any meds now for 6 weeks. He has stopped taking all of the above medications because of the horrible side effects he experiences. The pain in his muscles, joints, jaw are so painful for him he ends up going off the meds. He has migraines, nausea and vomiting. Needless to say he has lost all faith in our care for the mentally ill. He is married with 3 children. He is now paranoid about everything neighbors, government, conspiracy theories. The normal symptoms of the illness. He is beginning to hear voices again. Very anxious, mood swings,etc. He has been on disability for several years now but denied Medicaid. We r in the process of applying again. He doesn’t know where or who to turn to. It is definitely causing conflict in his marriage. I have personally been there for him the entire time. I have witnessed first hand doctors who only think he is trying to get drugs, doctors who have thrown in the towel, and doctors who we have walked out on due to overhearing them say “this guy is crazy”. We need help. He needs help. Someone who understands.
    Sincerely,
    Marks mom Marilyn .

    • Ben

      He needs help but you seem to be going to the wrong Drs. if you overhear them saying he is crazy. Secondly, why is he married, having 3 children who are not 10xs more likely to have the disease, and he cannot afford to support any of them. Right now, he needs a vasectomy.

  • jose

    Are you people retar***? Is it really taking you this long to realize heavy metals such as lead cause these psychotic disorders. And, as always, there is no cure for any disease in america and as doctors say “don’t take vitamins because they can make you sick or interact with your meds.” Heavy metal chelation using supplements such as chlorella, cilantro, and alfalfa and many others extract heavy metals from the body for a complete recovery. Jesus I cant believe how stup** people and corrupt people get.

    • Marilyn Balko

      Why r u so angry? I am asking for help not someone saying how stupid I am. I would love to know more about your ideas and where u got your info from. I would do anything to help my child. Are you schizophrenic? Did this help you? Thanks Jose. I’d like to hear more but as a kind and caring person.

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