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Genes Yield More Clues to Schizophrenia

9 genetic markers play a role, and the condition can be inherited from both parents, scientists say

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 5 (HealthDay News) -- A U.S. team has spotted nine genetic markers that can increase a person's risk for schizophrenia.

They've also found evidence that the condition can be inherited in what geneticists call a "recessive" manner -- inherited from both parents.

"If a person inherits identical copies of these markers from each parent, his or her risk for schizophrenia increases substantially," lead author Todd Lencz, director of research at the Zucker Hillside Hospital campus of the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Glen Oaks, N.Y., explained in a prepared statement.

The study was published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"If these results are confirmed, they could open up new avenues for research in schizophrenia and severe mental illness" study senior investigator Dr. Anil Malhotra, director of psychiatric research at Zucker Hillside, said in a prepared statement.

For this study, the researchers developed a unique mathematical method to simultaneously examine genetic information that a person has inherited from both parents, identifying identical pieces of chromosomes.

The scientists tested genetic material from 178 people with schizophrenia and a control group of 144 people without the condition. They identified nine regions along the chromosomes that may play a major role in triggering schizophrenia when two identical variants are inherited from parents.

Four of these regions contain genes previously linked to schizophrenia. The five other regions are new. Many of the genes in these regions play a role in the structure and survival of neurons.

The researchers found that 81 percent of schizophrenia patients in the study had at least one of the recessive markers, compared to 45 percent of those in the control group. Almost half the schizophrenia patients had two or more recessive markers, compared to 11 percent of those in the control group.

More information

Mental Health America has more about schizophrenia.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, news release, Dec. 3, 2007

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