Schizophrenia Research – What’s the Latest?

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Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that is characterised by hallucinations and delusions (psychosis). It affects around 1% of the population and there is currently no single identifiable cause of the condition and no cure. However, research is constantly revealing new information. So what’s the latest?

Neuregulin 3 – one more gene that may contribute to schizophrenia

Scientists have long since known that schizophrenia is linked to genes because of its tendency to run in families. Now researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have discovered that the gene Neuregulin 3 is one more they can add to the few that are currently known to contribute to schizophrenia.

They analysed genetic samples of more than 450 people with schizophrenia as well as samples from their parents and others who were not related to the subjects and who did not have the condition in order to compare results.

Focussing on a specific area of Chromosome 10, they analysed more than 1400 single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs to see if any particular SNPs were more frequent in people with schizophrenia. They found 3 SNPs associated with delusions all located in the Neuregulin 3 gene. Of the 20 most important SNPs 13 of them are located in and around this gene but these are associated with scholastic, disorganisation and hallucination factors.

The study was reported in the American Journal of Human Genetics in January 2009.
This latest discovery is just another piece in the puzzle but puts researchers another step forward towards an understanding of Schizophrenia.

A lack of grey matter in the brains of young people with psychosis

Scientists from Madrid using MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) have found that young people going through their first outbreak of psychosis have lower levels of grey matter in their brains than other youngsters.

Interestingly, this was seen in different types of psychosis including psychosis associated with manic depression (bi-polar) and schizophrenia.

Although it isn’t known why there should be a lack of grey matter in young people with psychiatric conditions, it does indicate that this may be a common feature.

The study was published in a recent journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Schizophrenia and Autism may share common origin

After conducting an extensive literature review, Dutch researcher Annemie Ploeger concluded that schizophrenia and autism probably share a common origin because both conditions share similar physical abnormalities that are formed during early pregnancy.

Ploeger’s research highlighted the period between 20 and 40 days after fertilisation as being particularly susceptible to disruption and she hypothesises that it is this early stage that is most critical. She advises women to cease any risky behaviour such as smoking, medicine use and stressful situations even before becoming pregnant otherwise the basis for disrupted development could already have been laid.

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