The researchers studied MIR137 a gene involved in turning on and off other schizophrenia-related genes in 510 individuals living with schizophrenia. The scientists found that patients with a specific version of the gene tended to develop the illness at a younger age, around 20.8 years of age, compared to 23.4 years of age among those without this version.
"Although three years of difference in age-at-onset may not seem large, those years are important in the final development of brain circuits in the young adult," said Dr. Kennedy, Director of CAMH's Neuroscience Research Department. "This can have major impact on disease outcome."
In a separate part of the study involving 213 people, the researchers used MRI and diffusion tensor-magnetic resonance brain imaging (DT-MRI). They found that individuals who had the particular gene version tended to have unique brain features. These features included a smaller hippocampus, which is a brain structure involved in memory, and larger lateral ventricles, which are fluid-filled structures associated with disease outcome. As well, these patients tended to have more impairment in white matter tracts, which are structures connecting brain regions, and serving as the information highways of the brain.
Developing tests that screen for versions of this gene could be helpful in treating patients earlier and more effectively.
"We're hoping that in the near future we can use this combination of genetics and brain imaging to predict how severe a version of illness someone might have," said Dr. Voineskos. "This would allow us to plan earlier for specific treatments and clinical service delivery and pursue more personalized treatment options right from the start."
|Contact: Anita Dubey|
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health