Schizophrenia has become a bewildering mental disorder being researched by many scientists. Several factors are involved in the outbreak of this psychotic ailment but genes are possibly the most important factor. Environmental stress plays a very important role as well, called gene expression. Mutations in the human genome and the interplay between genes and the environment have been found to be associated with schizophrenia.
If stresses can be kept aside, the other major factors involving the genetic make-up of the schizophrenic individual can surface. Scientists are slowly discovering new genetic links to schizophrenia. Surprisingly, the genes of the immune system are where it all begins and not the genes in brain development.
New Genetic Links to Schizophrenia
- The human immune system is usually targeted, whereby mutations in any of the genes responsible for the immune system development, causes an infection in the individual. This infection, over time, can lead to a psychotic ailment. Scientists have mapped five important mutations which are located closely together. This chromosomal area regulates immune system response and tissue development.
- Mutations been recently discovered by National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in proximity to a gene that regulates memory and intelligence and also in a gene that plays a role in the development of the brain. It is believed that individual genes work in concert to increase a person’s susceptibility to the disease, instead of condemning them to developing a psychotic ailment.
- Chromosomal deletions may increase the risk. One missing section of DNA on Chromosome 1 and two missing sections on chromosome 15 have been suggested by scientists. Missing sections on chromosome 22 have been known to lead to schizophrenia as well.
- The gene COMT in its abnormal form affects the neurochemical dopamine; thereby, unleashing hallucinations and impairing mental perception.
- The genes MDGA1, RELN, ITGA3, DLX1, SPARCL1, ASTN1 have been shown to be involved in the adhesion between neurons and radial glial cells, a special type of brain cell. Aberrant neuronal migration is a reason for brain abnormalities these genes cause. The final position of the neurons affects neuronal function, morphology and formation of synaptic connections. All of which can lead to psychotic disorders.
- The study carried out at the NIMH also reported a relationship between glutamate and traits associated with schizophrenia. The gene identified codes for glutamate receptors. These receptors are responsible for regulating the amount of glutamate in synapses and the amount remnant in spaces between the brain cells may have a downstream impact on cognition.
- Another study at the Center for Applied Genomics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has been exploring a region of a gene that may differ by one letter at a location called SNP4.
- Copy number variations found in or near genes CACNA1B and DOC2A can cause brain malfunctions leading to the last of the new genetic links to schizophrenia. These two genes carry codes for proteins that use calcium signals to control release of neurotransmitters in the brain.
A lot of research is still in progress to confirm how genes and environmental factors play together to bring about the dreaded mental disorder of schizophrenia, which is a curse for the individual and his or her loved ones.
- Scientists pinpoint schizophrenia genes (dawn.com)
- New Clues to Schizophrenia (webmd.com)
- Key Genes And Prototype Predictive Test Identified For Schizophrenia (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Genes Associated with Autism Also Related to Schizophrenia (nlm.nih.gov)
- Genetic Risk And Stressful Early Infancy Join To Increase Risk For Schizophrenia (medicalnewstoday.com)