Study Supports Common Genetic Contributions to Schizophrenia

10 October 2011

A large international research consortium has identified several new genes associated with schizophrenia. Their study, co-authored by Danielle Posthuma from the Neuroscience Campus Amsterdam, reveals that common genetic variants contribute to a person’s risk of schizophrenia.

The findings, reported by the Psychiatric Genome-Wide Association Study Consortium (PGC) and published online this week in the journal Nature Genetics, provide new molecular evidence that seven genetic regions have strong, robust, and replication association with the disease, including five regions not previously observed.
Schizophrenia is a common and often devastating brain disorder. Some of the most prominent symptoms in schizophrenia are persistent delusions, hallucinations and cognitive problems. Schizophrenia affects about 1 percent of the world’s population and usually strikes in late adolescence or early adulthood. Despite the availability of treatments, schizophrenia is usually chronic, and response to treatment is often incomplete leading to prolonged disability and personal suffering. Family history, which reflects genetic inheritance, is a strong risk factor, and it has generally been assumed that dozens of genes, along with environmental factors, contribute to disease risk.
The study is published back-to-back with a second study of the PGC on bipolar disorder. In a joint analysis of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder three genes were found that influence both disorders.
Both studies employed a powerful genomics mapping technology called genome-wide association, an approach that involves rapidly scanning markers across the complete sets of DNA, or genomes, of many people to find genetic variations associated with a particular disease. “A total of 51,695 schizophrenic patients and controls were included in the study, in which a million DNA markers were scanned. Results from this study provide novel clues into the genetic etiology of schizophrenia as well as bipolar disorder‚, says Danielle Posthuma, who is a member of the PGC consortium. Formed in 2007, the PGC is the largest consortium ever in psychiatry in which more than 250 researchers in 20 countries have come together to advance knowledge of the genetic causes of mental illness. These groups have shared genetic data from tens of thousands of patients collected over many years.

The research was carried out using the Dutch Genetic Cluster Computer, funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research and the VU University, and was further supported by the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, as well as numerous other U.S., European, and Australian funding bodies.

Link to paper:
Genetic Cluster Computer:
More information:
Prof dr. Danielle Posthuma, VU and VUMC Amsterdam, Neuroscience Campus Amsterdam
T: +31-20–598 2823