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Scientists identified genetic flues pointing to the causes of schizophrenia

Posted July 4, 2019

Schizophrenia is an incurable mental disorder, characterized by inability to understand reality, hearing voices,  reduced social engagement and emotional expression, strange speech, abnormal behaviour and other symptoms. Causes of schizophrenia are unknown, which is why it is so difficult to treat. But now scientists from Australia and India identified a genetic variation, which could lead to the discovery of the source of schizophrenia.

Self-portrait of a person with schizophrenia – this disorder removed the basic understanding of reality and what it means to be human. Image credit: Craig Finn via Wikimedia

Schizophrenia is highly debilitating condition. There are treatments, designed to reduce the symptoms and there are many people with schizophrenia who are able to function as productive members of society. According to World Health Organization, schizophrenia affects more than 21 million people worldwide, but not everyone is getting an appropriate treatment.

Scientists from The University of Queensland and a team of Indian researchers searched the genomes of more than 3000 individuals. The team was able to identify a gene, called NAPRT1, which would be associated with schizophrenia. NAPRT1 is responsible for encoding of an enzyme involved in vitamin B3 metabolism. Scientists found this gene in a large genomic dataset of schizophrenia patients with European ancestry.Then scientists performed experiments with zebra fish, eliminating the gene. They found that when NAPRT1 was absent, the brain function of the fish was impaired. This leads to a hypothesis that NAPRT1 plays a role in the development of schizophrenia.

Although a lot more research needs to be done, scientists believe that eventually this could present a target for novel schizophrenia therapies. Professor Bryan Mowry, one of the authors of the study, said: “There are now a multitude of genetic variants linked to schizophrenia, but we don’t yet know what the hundreds of genes involved do. The next phase is to study their function in normal and diseased states using computational approaches and animal models, such as the zebrafish”.

Scientists are trying to figure out what makes people susceptible to schizophrenia. Eventually this could lead to therapies that would help millions of people. Schizophrenia, as scientists put it, removed the basic feeling of what it means to be human. It warps the perception of reality and makes it difficult to perform daily tasks.

However, WHO reminds us that schizophrenia is treatable. Modern medicine can remove most of the severe symptoms and people with schizophrenia can live more or less normal lives. In fact, sometimes discrimination for them is a bigger challenge than the disorder itself. Scientists can find new therapies for schizophrenia, but you will have to change your perception towards this disorder too.


Source: University of Queensland

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