brainscanScientists have uncovered 80 previously unknown genes which may put people at risk of developing schizophrenia.

The team from Cardiff University believe the findings of their largest-ever global genetic study of the disease shows it can have biological causes and put it on a par with other medical conditions.

Study lead Professor Michael O'Donovan said: "For many years it has been difficult to develop new lines of treatment for schizophrenia, hampered by a poor understanding of the biology of disease.

"Finding a whole new bunch of genetic associations opens a window for well-informed experiments to unlock the biology of this condition and we hope ultimately new treatments."

Biological processes going awry
For the study, the group examined the genetic make-up of more than 37,000 people with the condition, comparing them with some 110,000 people without the disease.

From this, they found more than 100 genes that make people more susceptible to schizophrenia and are involved in the relay of chemical messages around the brain or in the immune system. 83 of these genes have never been pinpointed before.

Prof David Curtis, a co-author of the study from University College London, said: "This study puts psychiatry into the same category as other parts of medicine.

"In the past we have struggled with the view that psychiatric conditions are not 'real' illnesses but early genetic studies had limited successes. Now we show with confidence that there are biological processes going awry."