Researchers with Vanderbilt University Medical Center have identified more than 100 high-risk genes for schizophrenia, a serious mental disorder known to cause people to interpret reality abnormally.
According to the Mayo Clinic, people with schizophrenia often experience a combination of hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thinking and behavior, all of which can be severely disabling.
While those diagnosed with the disorder require lifelong treatment, early treatment may ease symptoms and improve future outlook.
The new Vanderbilt research, published last week in the journal Nature Neuroscience, offers “a hint of how to potentially develop intervention strategies,” senior author Bingshan Li said in a university article.
For the study, Li and his colleagues developed a computation framework called the “Integrative Risk Genes Selector,” which collected previously reported genetic knowledge data of loci (or fixed positions on a chromosome) associated with schizophrenia. They also pulled data from their own supporting evidence.
The team ultimately found 104 genes with high rates of mutation, and one of the genes may play a role in the development of autism spectrum disorder.
Currently, there is no cure for schizophrenia, though antipsychotic medications can help relieve symptoms. The new research, however, supports the view that schizophrenia is a developmental disease that can potentially be detected or treated before an individual experiences symptoms, which typically emerge between ages 16 and 30.
“It’s an ambitious goal … (but) by understanding the mechanism, drug development could be more targeted,” Li said.
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