Scientists say they have made a breakthrough in research into schizophrenia that could “open a window” to finding new treatments for the disease.
Eighty-three new genes associated with schizophrenia have been identified in a wide-ranging study.
A total of 108 loci − locations on genes − were discovered in the research undertaken by the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, a group of more than 80 institutions.
Samples from more than 150,000 people, almost 37,000 of whom had been diagnosed with the disease, were examined and the new locations were found showing a difference in the DNA sequence between those with the illness and those without.
One of the authors, Professor David Curtis of University College London, said the findings, published in the science journal Nature, are significant.
“This study puts psychiatry into the same category as other parts of medicine,” he told the BBC.
“In the past we have struggled with the view that psychiatric conditions are not ‘real’ illnesses but early genetic studies had limited successes. Now we show with confidence that there are biological processes going awry.”
Professor Michael O’Donovan from Cardiff University, which was also involved in the research said: “For many years it has been difficult to develop new lines of treatment for schizophrenia, hampered by a poor understanding of the biology of disease.
“Finding a whole new bunch of genetic associations opens a window for well-informed experiments to unlock the biology of this condition and we hope ultimately new treatments,” he said.