NEW YORK, July 22 - More than 100 locations on the human
genome may play a role in a person's risk of developing
schizophrenia, according to a new study.
While the results do not have an immediate effect on those
living with the psychiatric disorder, one of the study's authors
said they open areas of research that had not seen advances in
"The exciting thing about having little openings is it gives
you a place to dig and make big openings," said Steve McCarroll,
director of genetics for the Stanley Center for Psychiatric
Research at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
McCarroll is part of the Schizophrenia Working Group of the
Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, which published the study in
the journal Nature.
About 1 percent of Americans have schizophrenia, according
to the National Institutes of Health. The disorder's symptoms,
which include hallucinations and delusions, often begin between
people's teenage years and their late-20s. It often includes
psychotic experiences, such as hearing voices or delusions.
While the exact cause is unknown, research to date suggests
a combination of physical, genetic, psychological and
environmental factors can make people more likely to develop it.
Researchers have long believed genetics play an important
role in a person's schizophrenia risk, because about 10 percent
of those with a parent or sibling living with schizophrenia also
have the disorder.
In the new study, the researchers identified 108 locations
on the human genome that are tied to schizophrenia risk by
comparing the genomes of more than 80,000 people with and
without the disorder.
"Every one of us has dozens of these variants," McCarroll
said. "Schizophrenia patients on average have more than
unaffected individuals but that's only true on average, not
every individual case."
Of those 108 locations, the researchers write that 83 had
not been previously linked to schizophrenia.
Some of the genes found to be linked to schizophrenia risk
include those that have also been tied to how brain cells
communicate with each other and to learning and memory.
The new findings support the use of some existing treatments
for the symptoms of schizophrenia and researchers hope they may
point to other more comprehensive treatments.
"The goal is obviously to understand the disease process and
develop treatments," said Dr. Steve Hyman, director of the
(Reporting by Andrew Seaman in New York; Editing by Bill Trott)