August 8, 2008

New TCD schizophrenia breakthrough

Gary Culliton

Irish researchers have played a key role in developing new information on understanding schizophrenia.

People living with schizophrenia are far more likely to carry rare chromosomal structural changes of all types, particularly those that have the potential to alter gene function, according to the research involving scientists at Trinity College Dublin.
The findings have also uncovered two new specific genomic areas that, when altered, significantly increase the risk of developing the disease.

“This has been an extraordinary, rewarding, and collaborative effort by leading international researchers which heralds real progress in our understanding of these devastating disorders,” said Dr Aiden Corvin, senior lecturer in psychiatry at Trinity College Dublin.

Dr Corvin is leader of the Trinity research section of an international team who made a series of important breakthroughs in understanding the genetics of schizophrenia and bipolar affective disorder. These advances in identifying the genes associated with both disorders have long been a research priority and potentially offer new avenues for treatment.

The team’s findings, the largest and most complete study to date, were published in the international journal ‘Nature’.

Dr Corvin said: “The next step in the research will be to understand why there is an excess of rare chromosomal structural changes and to identify which genes are most critical in the development of the disorder.”

Schizophrenia and bipolar affective disorder are common mental disorders, affecting about one person in 100 among the Irish adult population. Their underlying causes are poorly understood. Both disorders, characterised by delusions and hallucinations, are known to involve inherited and environmental risk factors and they may share common risk mechanisms.

Formed in 2006, the International Schizophrenia Consortium is led by senior researchers from 11 institutes in Europe and the USA.

Major funding bodies include the Wellcome Trust, Science Foundation Ireland and the UK Medical Research Council.