brainscanA range of genes functioning in pathways related to the transmission of signals in the brain and immunity contribute to the risk for developing schizophrenia, according to an international study.
Researchers from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy in the US hope this new genetic information can be used to develop and design drugs that are more efficacious and have fewer side effects.
Genes robustly associated with schizophrenia
For the study, published the April issue of JAMA Psychiatry, the researchers first used 21,953 subjects to examine over a million genetic markers. They then systematically collected results from other kinds of biological schizophrenia studies and combined all these results using a novel data integration approach.

The most promising genetic markers were tested again in a large collection of families with schizophrenia patients, a design that avoids pitfalls that have plagued genetic studies of schizophrenia in the past.

The genes they identified after this comprehensive approach were found to have involvement in brain function, nerve cell development and immune response.
Excellent targets for development of new drugs
Principal investigator, Edwin van den Oord, explained: "Now that we have genes that are robustly associated with schizophrenia, we can begin to design much more specific experiments to understand how disruption of these genes may affect brain development and function. Also, some of these genes provide excellent targets for the development of new drugs."

Study author Karolina A Aberg concluded: "Our results suggest that the novel data integration approach used in this study is a promising tool that potentially can be of great value in studies of a large variety of complex genetic disorders."

Read the full study at