LA JOLLA, CA March 1, 2010 The underlying causes of the debilitating psychiatric disorder schizophrenia remain poorly understood. In a new study published online in Genome Research March 2, 2010, however, scientists report that a powerful gene network analysis has revealed surprising new insights into how gene regulation and age play a role in schizophrenia.
Researchers are actively working to identify the direct cause of schizophrenia, likely rooted in interactions between genes and the environment resulting in abnormal gene expression in the central nervous system. Scientists have been studying expression changes in schizophrenia on an individual gene basis, yet this strategy has explained only a portion of the genetic risk.
In the new work, a team of researchers led by Associate Professor Elizabeth Thomas of The Scripps Research Institute has taken a novel approach to this problem, performing a gene network-based analysis that revealed surprising insight into schizophrenia development.
The group analyzed gene expression data from the prefrontal cortex, a region of the brain associated with schizophrenia, sampled post-mortem from normal individuals and schizophrenia patients ranging from 19 to 81 years old. However, instead of just looking at genes individually, Thomas and colleagues at the Scripps Translational Science Institute, Nicholas Schork and Ali Torkamani, considered interactions between genes, as well as groups of genes that showed similar patterns of expression, to identify dysfunctional cellular pathways in schizophrenia.
"Once gene co-expression networks are identified," said Thomas, "we can then ask how they are affected by factors such as age or drug treatment, or if they are associated with particular cell types in the brain."
The gene network analysis suggested that normal individuals and schizophrenia patients have an unexpectedly similar connectivity between genes, but the most surprisin
|Contact: Keith McKeown|
Scripps Research Institute