Irish scientists find genetic link to schizophrenia and bipolar

IRISH researchers have played a leading role in discovering a genetic link to a person’s risk of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

An international research consortium, including scientists from Trinity College Dublin (TCD), have found that many of the DNA variations identified contribute to both diseases.

The findings are significant advances in the understanding of the causes of these chronic and often debilitating disorders.

The Psychosis Research Group at TCD conducted two large studies involving more than 4,000 Irish people.

Science Foundation Ireland principal investigator and head of TCD’s Psychosis Research Group, Professor Aiden Corvin, said the findings provide potentially important new treatment targets.

Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are common and often devastating brain disorders. Both affect around 1% of the world’s population and usually strike in late adolescence or early adulthood.

Family history, which reflects genetic inheritance, is a strong risk factor for both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

It has been generally assumed that dozen of genes, along with environmental factors, contribute to disease risk.

Despite the availability of treatment, these illnesses are usually chronic and response to treatment is often incomplete leading to prolonged disability and personal suffering.

Prof Corvin said parallel discoveries in neuroscience were making it increasingly possible to investigate the underlying biological causes of conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

“Knowing more about the biology is key, as the development of new treatments has stalled over several decades, and these finding provide potentially important new treatment targets,” he said.

The findings have been reported by the Psychiatric Genome-Wide Association Study Consortium and have been published online in the journal Nature Genetics.

Research on schizophrenia and bipolar disorder by the Psychosis Research Group is funded by Science Foundation Ireland, the Wellcome Trust and Health Research Board.

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