A Milestone in the Search for Schizophrenia’s Causes

A Milestone in the Search for Schizophrenia’s Causes

Posted: January 28, 2016
A Milestone in the Search for Schizophrenia’s Causes

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Exciting news reported today in Nature and featured in the New York Times points to one of the likely causes (among others) of schizophrenia in some people: overactive pruning of synapses -- connections between nerve cells -- in the brain's prefrontal cortex during the early years of life.  Foundation prizewinners and grantees Michael O’Donovan, M.D., Ph.D., a 2012 Lieber Prizewinner and Patrick Sullivan, M.D., a 2010 NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Grantee and 2014 Lieber Prizewinner, leaders of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC) collected and phenotyped cohorts and contributed genotype data for the analysis by the study leaders at Harvard University and the Broad Institute. Drs. Sullivan and O’Donovan and other Foundation-supported researchers have been on this trail for some years. See our feature story with Dr. Patrick Sullivan and this citation of one of the PGC's papers in 2014's top 10 discoveries by BBRF-supported investigators.

Among our top 10 Discoveries of 2014:

Basic Research: Schizophrenia

Largest-Ever Study of Common Gene Disruptions in Schizophrenia

More than 80 institutions participating in the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC) performed one of the largest biomedical experiments ever, and the largest in mental illness, comparing the DNA of 37,000 people with schizophrenia and 113,000 healthy volunteers. They identified 128 independent genetic associations spanning 108 different “loci,” or areas of the genome where relatively common variations in sequence were associated with schizophrenia. 83 of these loci had not been previously identified. Greater association was found with genes that are expressed in the brain and also among genes with important roles in the functioning of the immune system.

Journal: Nature, July 22, 2014. This brief synopsis is based on the original story: Advancing Genetics Offer Promise for Developing Risk Profiles, Better Treatments for Schizophrenia.