Thursday, August 10, 2006

Scientists have pinpointed two genes that lead to schizophrenia and manic depression

Copenhagen Post:

Researchers at Aarhus University's Institute for Human Genetics have discovered two genes that are catalysts for mental illness, particularly schizophrenia and manic depression, daily newspaper Berlingske Tidende reported Thursday.

The research team, led by Dr Anders Børglum, identified the genes on chromosome 22 in a research project conducted on persons from Scotland and the Faeroe Islands. The team found that the patients who showed signs of mental illness had mutations in the two genes, GPR24 and BRD1, on that chromosome.

The discovery does not mean, however, that the mutatuions in the two genes automatically result in mental illness, and that there are numerous environmental factors also at work.

'We're talking about a multi-factoral heredity, where five, 10 or 15 genes can be involved in triggering the illness,' said Dr Børglund.

Scientists believe that hereditary factors account for around 80 percent of the risk of developing schizophrenia and manic depression. The find now gives hope for the development of acute treatments for the illnesses.

One of the two newly found genes is involved in the signalling between brain cells, while the other participates in the brains development and maintenance.

'One can say that the illness genes individually encrypt positive qualities, such as imagination and innovation,' stated Dr Børlund. 'But if a person has too many of these variants - or an unlucky combination - it becomes too much for the brain and creates angst, obsessive thoughts and hallucinations.'

Manic depression is an illness that manifests itself in alternating periods of exaggerated happiness and deep depression. Schizophrenia is characterised by the inability to control ones thoughts and feelings, the person often hearing voices and thinking he or she is being followed.

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