January 24, 2007

McLean Hospital Researches Genetic Links Between Schizophrenia and Family Traits

Researchers at Harvard's McLean Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts believe that the study of quirky little familial traits such as slowness of eye-tracking, high roof of the mouth, subtle facial anomalies and even the occasional awkward wording, combined with genetic research, may further reveal the genetic underpinnings of schizophrenia. The hospital's Psychology Research Laboratory recently won a $3 million federal grant to see if their theory is correct.

According to the Boston Globe, the laboratory's director, Deborah Levy and other researchers say that one possible explanation of the persistence of schizophrenia in the general population at a stable rate of approximately 1% is that most people carrying the schizophrenia genes are the family members, most of whom never show signs of the illness and that schizophrenia results from a critical combination of a variable handful of genes.

Relatives may carry one or more of those genes, but not the critical complement or environment exposure that bring on the disease. The theory is that if relatives actually carry the genes for traits linked to schizophrenia, it would be wrong to rule them out as people who have risk.

The Globe reported that "Recent genomic research suggests that perhaps 15 genes may be involved in schizophrenia, she said, but "there's still a lot of murkiness," and many findings initially offer hope but then cannot be replicated."

Curtis Deutsch, a genetics expert who focuses on facial variations and their links to various diseases says:

Most people do not know it, but in embryos, the brain and the face develop at around the same time from the same embryonic area and are shaped by similar forces. So, subtle abnormalities in the shape and layout of a face may reflect specific abnormalities in brain structure.

Read the full article: McLean researchers explore genetic links between schizophrenia and family traits

Related Reading: New Research Study: McLean Hospital's Search for Schizophrenia Genes

How Genes Contribute to Schizophrenia

Genes and Schizophrenia: What is the Connection? (Video)

Schizophrenia Risk Genes - Interview with Dr. Daniel Weinberger, NIMH


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