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Scientists move forward understanding of schizophrenia

A Scots-led medical research team has identified a new gene linked to major mental illness that links back to a previously discovered gene known to increase the risk of schizophrenia and depression. Scientists from the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, together with scientists from the pharmaceutical company Merck, Sharp & Dohme Limited, report the discovery of the second gene, phosphodiesterase 4B (PDE4B) in the prestigious journal Science today (17 November). Their discoveries could lead to the eventual development of new drugs to treat mental health problems.

In 2000, researchers at the University of Edinburgh identified a gene they called Disrupted in Schizophrenia 1 (DISC1), which was found to increase the chances of people developing schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (manic depression) and major clinical depression.

Now, new research by the two Universities and by scientists from the pharmaceutical company Merck Sharpe and Dohme reveals that damage to the gene PDE4B is also seen to increase the risk of developing mental illness. PDE4B was already known to play an important role in how the brain thinks and builds memories, but had not previously been linked to mental disorder. In addition, researchers have discovered that DISC1 acts as a regulator for PDE4B, creating a 'pathway' between the two genes.

Professor David Porteous at the University of Edinburgh said: "This is another important breakthrough in our still limited understanding of major mental illness. It is the result of a long term research commitment to use the tools of genetics to better understand the root causes of mental disorder.

"This has been a fantastic combined effort. The collaboration between the Universities of Edinburgh and of Glasgow, jointly with our research colleagues at Merck Sharpe and Dohme has really made this happen.

"It is now clear that the DISC1 gene plays an important role in the risk of developing schizophrenia or bipolar affec
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Source:University of Edinburgh


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