Multiple genes contribute to risk for schizophrenia and appear to function in pathways related to transmission of signals in the brain and immune system, according to an international study led by Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Pharmacy researchers, and involving scientists at a great number of collaborating institutions. By better understanding the molecular and biological mechanisms involved with schizophrenia, scientists hope to use this new genetic information to one day develop and design drugs that are more efficacious and have fewer side effects. In a study published online on April 9, 2013 in an open-access article in JAMA Psychiatry, the JAMA Network journal, researchers used a comprehensive and unique approach to robustly identify genes and biological processes conferring risk for schizophrenia. The researchers first used 21,953 subjects to examine over a million genetic markers. They then systematically collected results from other kinds of biological schizophrenia studies and combined all these results using a novel data integration approach. The most promising genetic markers were tested again in a large collection of families with schizophrenia patients, a design that avoids pitfalls that have plagued genetic studies of schizophrenia in the past. The genes they identified after this comprehensive approach were found to have involvement in brain function, nerve cell development, and immune response.
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