Researchers have identified mutations in genes that control epigenetic regulation, which may contribute to both schizophrenia and autism. Schizophrenia affects about 1% of the adult population. Currently, schizophrenia can only be diagnosed by observing behavior and measuring the duration of the symptoms and functional impairment.
There is little biological understanding of the disease, which has presented a barrier in developing more precise diagnosis and more effective treatments. As schizophrenia can be inherited and because genomic technologies have vastly improved in recent years, research has now turned to investigating the genetic risk factors for the condition.
Two things were of interest in this study, first that the genes where this was happening (AUTS2, CDH8, HUWE1) had already been implicated in autism and intellectual disability. When tested whether this was a chance clustering we found this to be highly unlikely. Second, the genes appear to be involved in the same process, which is to control how DNA is used, or expressed as proteins. So they seem to be regulatory. T his is a really exciting finding as it suggests that neurodevelopmental disorders such as schizophrenia and autism, which hitherto have been seen as different diseases may involve common underlying disease mechanisms.
This may have implications in the future for how we conceptualize and treat these conditions.
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