April 23, 2006

Genetic Test for Schizophrenia Susceptibility Coming

A Lousiville, Kentucky newspaper reported this week that a company is working on bringing a new genetic test to market to help determine if a person is at high risk of developing schizophrenia. This would be an ideal test for for families where one person has already developed schizophrenia - so that special care could be taken to reduce the risk of developing schizophrenia (by avoiding known schizophrenia risk factors). We have not done any validation on this news story - so a healthy dose of skepticism is due. The company is looking for investors - but unless you are a sophisticated investor with experience in biotech investments, we wouldn't recommend it.

The newspaper reported:

The company, SureGene, plans to market the test within two years and is seeking about $1 million from investors. It is in talks with large diagnostic companies about a possible marketing partnership. The test stemmed from the discovery by biochemist Mark Brennan and other University of Louisville researchers of two genetic variations linked to schizophrenia in some patients. The team's research was published in a genetics journal late last year.

"We haven't explained it all," Brennan said, referring to a genetic basis for some cases of the mental disease. "I don't want to give that impression. But I think we've explained some important aspects."

The paper further states that "Dr. Brennan's discovery was to identify two new genetic variations whose presence significantly increases the chance of getting schizophrenia, according to the research. "

Read full story: Schizophrenia test market-bound - U of L researcher seeks investors

Company Link: Suregene LLC


we are looking into an adoption.the mother is schizophenia and is taking haldol.what are the chances for the baby being schizophenia?i just want to make sure i get some medical advice thank you

Posted by: MICHELLE at April 26, 2006 07:01 PM

It is nonsense for a company to suggest that people should buy their supposed product, because they know of a way to prevent schizophrenia, or even reduce its risk. Until the cause is known, ways to prevent it or reduce risks are just guesses based on statistical data. I hope investors avoid such a product. So far, the genes that seem to occur more often in schizophrenics are PURELY 'putative', which means that they may have some role. Until the cause is known, identifying those at risk and even what a risk factor is, is pure conjecture.

Posted by: slc at April 27, 2006 08:31 AM

the baby has a relatively small risk judging by the statistics we now have. the adjusted lifetime risk (LAR), a mathematical formula created from studying large groups of people, suggests the baby's LAR is about 10 percent. the risk is somewhat more if a number of family members, or the father, also have schizophrenia.

early treatment and identification of the illness means that many future sufferers of this disease may have much less disability and much less severe disease. the key is learning and studying about this illness, and having excellent health care.

there is no proof that reducing stress, a certain diet, activity or behavior or treating a child a certain way will 'reduce risk' of getting this disease. don't you believe that. it's nonsense. none of that has any proof behind it.

if it was me, and i was in a position to adopt a child with an illness in the family, i'd take a long hard look at myself, could i deal with it if my child had a persistent illness? am i a relaxed, patient person who can deal with a person with a brain condition? would i still be proud of the child and love her? would i be fussy if my child had some odd habits, or would i be disappointed if my child couldn't hold down a high stress job, or quickly finish college? do i have a lot of energy and patience for dealing with schools and doctors, or do i get easily frustrated? i'd look at myself as well as learn about the disease. in the end it's a decision only you can make. i think it takes a special parent to deal with a child with a brain disorder. many people find they are happy to adopt a child at risk for an illness, others aren't...no one decision is right for all.

Posted by: slc at April 27, 2006 08:37 AM

Wonder what my mother would have done if she had this test avialable before I was born?

"a new genetic test to market to help determine if a person is at high risk of developing schizophrenia."

Would I be here to write this message?

Posted by: fred at April 30, 2006 01:59 PM

To the second poster:

I believe you misread the article about SureGene. We do not in any way claim to be able to prevent schizophrenia. What we have done is identify several genetic risk factors that greatly enhance an individual's risk of developing schizophrenia. There are a multitude of potential uses for the test. We have not determined all of those uses nor the best uses of the test. For this reason, we have not offered the test to patients and their families as yet. The reason we are raising money is to answer those questions scientifically prior to offering the test to the public. Moreover, we are not soliciting investment from the general public. We only approach angels and other sophisticated investors who can accurately weigh the risk/reward potential of SureGene. More information is available on our website - www.suregene.net.

Tim Ramsey
CEO, SureGene

Posted by: Tim Ramsey at May 1, 2006 07:50 AM

I read your article very carefully, as well as all the published information available, and I am very well read in the issues of genetics and schizophrenia, and this does not change one thing: risk factors do not equal cause or prevention. And manipulating risk factors does not equal reducing risk of an illness. The genes identified as 'risk factors for schizophrenia' do not necesssarily have anything to do with the cause or the prevention of the disease. The 'risk factors' may be harmless hitchhikers that have nothing to do with the disease, and merely occur with it. Look at the research on the 'Rett's Disorder Gene'. Isolating a gene that is 'associated' with schizophrenia or is a 'risk factor' for schizophrenia doesn't necessarily have a doggone thing to do with preventing it or curing it.


Posted by: slc at May 2, 2006 02:01 PM


I must respectfully disagree with your conclusions. I think you misunderstood our technology and you certainly misunderstood the Rett's case. Contrary to your assertion of a “hitchhiker-like” effect, there appears to be a very clear and specific molecular mechanism in the Rett's case. Since the Rett's mutation seems to cause a loss of function, treatments will be problematic to develop at this time. A cure would be possible with gene therapy. Alternatively, once the down stream targets of Rett's silencing effect have been determined, phamra companies have several tools in their arsenal to treat the disease, from small molecule drugs to RNAi. This situation is highly analogous to schizophrenia in the following way. Current treatments focus on modulating cell surface receptor response, especially dopamine receptors. While this treatment provides symptomatic relief, it does not address the fundamental physiological and molecular problem, which in most cases lies either upstream or downstream of the molecular pathways that include those receptors.

Returning to SureGene's technology, the genetic markers that we have identified have all have plausible mechanisms of action. Moreover, we have not conducted association studies. Those kinds of studies have been responsible for most the discoveries in the field, and yes most of the studies have very limited utility. We, however, have used linkage disequilibrium in a highly specialized and proprietary manner to discover several heretofore unknown genetic regions that make significant contributions to schizophrenia. These regions certainly do not explain the entirety of schizophrenia, but we believe that they do explain a very significant fraction. Furthermore, in the future it is quite likely that the traditional, clinical definition of most schizophrenia cases will be replaced by a series of molecular insults, e.g. genetic defects, which create symptomatically similar conditions.

Our first goal is quite simple. We wish to offer the families of schizophrenics the ability to determine the genetic risk of other family members. Will we be able to help all families, perhaps or even probably not? For those families that we can help, we will provide very valuable information to them. Regardless if an individual family member is at risk or not the family greatly benefits. For those who do not share the genetic risk factors with the schizophrenic, the results provide a tremendous sense of emotional relief and enhance quality of life. For those at increased risk, numerous options exist to improve their overall prognosis. Currently, significant research efforts are ongoing to define the appropriate protocols for high risk individuals. At the very least, the family can have enhanced vigilance and take appropriate measures, such as having the high risk individual visit his/her physician with the recommended regularity, which is at least 8 times per year, during the highest risk periods of late adolescence and young adulthood. Substantial literature exists that demonstrates that the earlier intervention and treatment happens the better the lifetime outcome for the schizophrenic.

We also have additional goals for later versions in the AssureGene test family that should provide even more value and options to schizophrenics, their families, and physicians.

I would be more than happy to address any specific questions that you or anyone else might have.

Posted by: Tim Ramey at May 3, 2006 11:13 AM

Yes, we will talk further one on one, but please do recognize that the 'Rett's Gene' was present in boys, who don't have Rett's, and in mildly retarded girls and boys without Retts, and there were a host of other occurences which did not jive at all with it being 'The Retts Gene'.


Posted by: slc at May 4, 2006 09:26 AM


I look forward to answering any questions that you, or others, might have. The Rett's examples that you mention perfectly illustrate my earlier point about multiple molecular defects resulting in symptomatically similar conditions. Ultimately, there will most likely be several different conditions in the Rett's spectrum, each with a different molecular cause. In fact, 10-15 years from now, that sort of segmentation of diseases will be the norm.

Posted by: Tim Ramey at May 5, 2006 06:50 AM

its fine to know that lots of studies are going on psycho-genetics i am a student of MSc. BIO-MEDICAL GENETICS my area of interest is on neuro-psucho genetics and neuro-degeneration, it will be a kudos and assure to become a stalwart in this field

Posted by: PARTHO GHOSH at May 10, 2006 04:36 AM

Dear Mr.may,
Will genetics have 100% detection of genetically risky person?If so in what way 100% it can be prevented?Or you are only giving probablity.Do you say that in the same family(same father and mother)can have one high risk individual and another without any risk? If correct can this be explained gentically? thanks

Posted by: captainjohann at July 24, 2006 09:07 AM

i think i am slowly but surely be coming a paranoid schitzophrenic and i need help i dont know where to go or what to do but i know i need to
talk to a doctor
i just turned 18 this pst june and i am losing my mind .

Posted by: doug at October 31, 2006 11:11 PM

i need to be committed... sooner or later i went to some hospital when i was like 9 cuz i tried to hang myself but i am not even depressed any more but the voice in my head my voice is getting less organized i cannot focus on my own thoughts and i am contantly paranoid and there are all these lines and trails around the lights i dont know some advice pleease

Posted by: doug at October 31, 2006 11:15 PM

One can adopt the child as long as one is aware of the potential. There are no certainties in life. But give the child a hope. Nothing wrong in that.

Posted by: cathetel at November 21, 2007 05:08 PM

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