Rather than being a single condition, new research published in the American Journal of Psychiatry suggests that schizophrenia may be a group of eight genetically different diseases - each with their own symptoms. Cardiff University School of Medicine in the UK reported that they had linked 108 genes - 83 of them newly discovered - to schizophrenia.
In the new study, researchers from the universities of Granada in Spain and Washington in St Louis, MO, recruited 4,196 schizophrenia patients and 3,200 healthy controls to identify the different gene networks implicated in schizophrenia. Associations between individual genes and schizophrenia symptoms were found to be weak and inconsistent. However, where this study breaks from other studies into the genetic component of schizophrenia is by choosing to investigate the interaction of genes, rather than just associations between schizophrenia and individual genes.
The researchers first identified 42 groups of genes that appeared to influence schizophrenia risk, then calculated that they contribute to 70-100% of schizophrenia risk. The authors note that it is, therefore, almost impossible for individuals with certain genetic variant networks to avoid schizophrenia. In the past, scientists had searched for associations between individual genes and schizophrenia. What was lacking was the idea that these genes do not act independently, but that they work as a group instead, to disturb the structure and the functions of the brain, thus causing the disease.
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