03:00pm Saturday 28 March 2020

Breakthrough for schizophrenia research

The Schizophrenia Psychiatric Genome-Wide Association Study Consortium used data from the Australian Schizophrenia Research Bank (ASRB). The Bank is managed by the Schizophrenia Research Institute’s University of Newcastle group and collects genetic, clinical and neurological information from up to 4,000 volunteers across Australia.

The study, published today in the prestigious international journal Nature Genetics, also confirmed that two other previously identified gene loci are associated with schizophrenia.

Professor Rodney Scott* from the University of Newcastle said the findings were a major step in identifying exactly which genes were involved in schizophrenia risk.

“This data confirms that complex genetic variation contributes to an individual’s likelihood of developing schizophrenia,” he said.

“We are at the cutting-edge of understanding the underlying biology of schizophrenia and how genetic variation is involved in its development.”

Researchers have also confirmed a genetic connection between bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

“This suggests that bipolar disorder and schizophrenia may belong to a spectrum disorder,” Professor Scott said.

“We now know where to look within the human genome to understand more about genetic risk factors for mental illness.”

More than 50,000 people across the world were a part of the study.

“The strength of this research is in the numbers,” Professor Scott said. “The findings are robust and give us a lot of statistical power to identify the genetic determinants of schizophrenia.”

Five University of Newcastle researchers were involved in the research project – Professor Scott, computer scientist Associate Professor Frans Henskens, ASRB Manager Dr Carmel Loughland, Professor Pat Michie and Associate Professor Uli Schall.

Schizophrenia is a developmental brain condition that typically occurs in one in 100 people. It is the third leading cause of disability in young people and there is no known cure.

* Professor Scott is Co-Director of the University’s Priority Research Centre for Bioinformatics, Biomarker Discovery and Information-Based Medicine. Health and medical researchers at the University of Newcastle work in collaboration with the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI). HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.

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