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'Landmark' Study Identifies Genetic Link to Schizophrenia Nancy A. Melville

In what some are calling the strongest evidence to date of a genetic link to the development of schizophrenia, researchers have identified a gene that shows a significant association with the mental disorder that may explain its characteristic brain volume reductions and onset during adolescence.

For many years research scientists suspected a genetic component to schizophrenia. "This represents a landmark study which certifies more definitively than in previous studies the specific genetic contribution that causes schizophrenia," 

Jeffrey A. Lieberman, MD, the Lawrence C. Kolb Professor and chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, in New York City, agreed that the study's implications are important and may help guide treatment as well as diagnosis in schizophrenia.

Imaging studies of patients with schizophrenia exhibit a shrinkage in gray matter. The gene appears to control a complement component C4 which controls synaptic pruning..the decrease in the number of synapses seen in the aging process.  As we age, old connections are deleted through a process called synaptic pruning.
"If we have a suspicion of schizophrenia, we could examine through imaging or another means the trajectory of their brain's change or growth, so it offers an opportunity to help with diagnostic assessment," he said.
"It could also help guide how we treat the disease. For instance, instead of looking downstream, trying to block dopamine, we can look to factors that preserve or slow synaptic elimination.
In the future it may be possible to forecast who is at risk of developing schizophrenia. 

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