April 18, 2006

Neuregulin-1 gene variation confirmed as predisposing people to schizophrenia

A new report published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) confirmed what a large gene (Neuregulin-1) that regulates many brain functions is abnormal in people who have schizophrenia.

The study provides clues to how the gene seems to disrupt brain development and function and put people at risk for different types of thinking problems and brain disorders.

Newsday of New York reported that

"This is a very interesting study," said Dr. Gerald Fischbach, dean of the faculty of medicine at Columbia University, who added that this finding may one day lead to new ways to treat schizophrenia. Fischbach and his colleagues identified the gene in the early 1990s, and they suspected it had something to do with the nervous system. It's only been in the past three years that a team of scientists in Iceland, at deCode Genetics, has linked the gene to schizophrenia. Since then, more than a half dozen laboratories have confirmed the link.

Schizophrenia researchers believe that alterations in neuregulin-1 may change the biology of the gene and lead to an abnormal regulation of its expression and function in the schizophrenic brain, NIMH researcher Dr. Amanda Law stated.

The New York Times, reporting on the news story, noted:

Neuregulin is one of about 10 genes so far linked to schizophrenia. It plays many different roles in the brain, some concerned with synapses, the interconnections between neurons, so derangements of its function are a plausible source of schizophrenia. It is a long road, however, from knowing a variant gene is linked with a disease to understanding the biology of how the disease is caused.

The problem is particularly daunting with neuregulin. It is one of the largest genes in the human genome, sprawling over some 1,125,000 units of DNA, and it generates at least six types of protein through a procedure known as alternative splicing, in which different components of the gene are mixed and matched so that each set specifies a different protein.

Researchers are now working on a way to measure neuregulin in living patients and identify ways to predict who may become ill and why.

Dr. Kari Stefansson, president and chief operating officer of deCode, identified neuregulin-1 as a risk gene for schizophrenia. Stefansson has reasons to go after the disease. As a trained neurologist and neuropathologist, he has watched his older brother live with schizophrenia.


Proceedings of the National Academy of Science - Neuregulin 1 transcripts are differentially expressed in schizophrenia and regulated by 5' SNPs associated with the disease

New York Times - Schizophrenia as Misstep by Giant Gene (free registration required)

NewsDay, New York - New Schizophrenia Clue


there are many genes suspected of being involved. i feel this sort of research is really just now starting to provide information, and that a lot of conclusions about what they mean right now will probably wind up not being valid once more information is collected.

there is very little likelihood that this illness is caused by one simple gene that can be 'found' quite this easily, or that the gene(s), when found, will work exactly how we know other genes to work. work must continue and i'm sure the cause has something to do with genes, but only because genes control everything the person does and their body chemistry, etc.

Posted by: slc at May 3, 2006 08:31 AM

Hmm, to me "chemical imbalance" and the auto immune system are two biological processes for repairing damage. I think this genetic research is identifying the genes trying to repair the damage from psychological insults. Its a bit like looking at the AIDS virus and saying its our immune system that is at fault. I think the problem with "mental illness" is the "bully virus". To prove this I'd ask each person in a community of 30,000 who they dislike and like in their social sphere. The idea being that bullying information will travel the path of people disliked. I'm willing to wager my 360 that children at the end of dislike paths will develop a "metal illness" by the relevant age. Idiots.

Posted by: ZLoserKing at August 15, 2006 10:23 PM

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