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Advances in the field of schizophrenia research: New genetic factors identified
Date:7/30/2008

ntial symptoms of this severe mental illness." Symptoms may also include a blunted affect along with episodes of depression. Depending on the manifestation, schizophrenia is classified into different subtypes. Altogether, the illness is among the most severe mental illnesses known. According to estimates, approximately one in every hundred persons experiences a schizophrenic episode at least once in their lives. In Germany alone there are approximately 800,000 persons affected with the illness. It is still only possible to partially treat schizophrenia. In a best case scenario, such treatment can offer a patient a good level of functioning despite the illness.

What exactly causes schizophrenia remains unknown. Family, twin and adoption studies have demonstrated, however, that in addition to environmental factors, genetic components are crucialapproximately 80 percent according to estimations. Thus, close relatives of a schizophrenic patient are more susceptible to fall ill themselves. The hereditary pattern of the underlying genetic factors, however, proved extraordinarily complex and can be decoded only with great difficulty. "There are presumably several genetic factors working together, each of which only has a very small effect on disease risk or which occur very rarely and have a moderate to strong effect," explained Rujescu. "For this reason, the field of schizophrenia genetics should be concerned with identifying these so-called risk genes. We have certainly made an important leap in the search for genetic factors. Yet there is not a single 'schizophrenia gene' but rather only genetic variations that can increase or decrease one's susceptibility to the illness."

The European team of researchers who conducted the "Nature" study compared the genome of thousands of persons not affected by the illness with those patients suffering from the disease. The researchers sought to discover what are known as "copy number variations" or CNVs. These are
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Contact: Luise Dirscherl
dirscherl@lmu.de
49-892-180-2706
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitt Mnchen
Source:Eurekalert

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