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A new finding on schizophrenia causes could narrow the search for new drugs to treat this debilitating condition.

In one of the latest studies, scientists have identified dozens of genes that work differently in the brains of people with schizophrenia. Many of these 49 genes found in brain samples donated by people with schizophrenia are involved in controlling the way cells communicate with each other, suggesting that faulty signaling between them could cause the condition.

One of the researchers reporting that the finding is getting them closer to seeing what is going wrong in schizophrenia and what to target for drug treatment. And this understand of what is really going on, of what genes are involved and what they are doing is an important step for better treatments for schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia, affects around an estimated one in 100 people and is more common in men than in women. This mental disorder is usually diagnosed in late adolescence or early adulthood.

Current medications, such as anti-psychotic drugs Seroquel or Zyprexa can help with the symptoms but do not cure the illness and can cause unpleasant side-effects, among which dangerous weight gain.

Previous research indicated that the condition occurred when the brain produced too much of a chemical called dopamine or that the coat surrounding nerve cells was damaged in people with schizophrenia.

The team from Imperial College London and GlaxoSmithKline Plc analyzed brain tissue donated by 23 healthy people and 28 men and women with schizophrenia. Then they compared the samples to a similar sized group in the United States. The analyses revealed 49 genes that worked differently in the samples of people with schizophrenia, suggesting that abnormalities in the way in which cells signal each other are involved in the disease.

The findings could also lead to new ways, such as blood tests for certain markers or more specific brain imaging, to help doctors diagnose schizophrenia earlier than waiting for a person's behavior to change enabling them to have a better quality of life.


If genes are involved in schizophrenia, is gene therapy a practical alternative to drug therapy?