When we get rid of schizophrenia genes, how do we stop the pandemic?
Geneticists are using the latest genetic technology to track down the genetic origins of schizophrenia, the first mental disorder to be identified as a rare genetic condition.
The research, published in the journal Nature Genetics, was led by the University of Melbourne’s Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology.
“The genetic basis of schizophrenia is something that is currently being hotly debated in the scientific community,” said Dr Helen McArthur, senior author and head of the Institute of Microbiology and Cell Biology.
“Our study is a major step towards understanding how the genetics of schizophrenia are linked to the brain.”
Our work shows that the genetic basis for schizophrenia can be traced to a small group of genes that encode the amino acid tryptophan, which is required for the breakdown of dopamine, and the neurotransmitter glutamate.
“One of the genes implicated in schizophrenia is one that is linked to tryptamine metabolism.””
We know that genetic changes in the brains of schizophrenia patients can result in abnormal brain chemistry, which can affect cognition, emotion and behaviour,” Dr McArthur said.
“One of the genes implicated in schizophrenia is one that is linked to tryptamine metabolism.”
This research is the first to link the genetic code of schizophrenia with the biochemical changes that result in dopamine metabolism in the brain, and it is exciting to see the work that we are making use of to understand this link.
“The study involved using the DNA sequence of the amino acids tryptophytin and tyrosine, which are also found in the neurotransmitters dopamine and glutamate, as well as a small number of genes.
This led to the identification of a set of genes linked to dopamine metabolism, which was used to link together the genetic information from the two sets of genes and to analyse the gene activity.”
One of our key goals in the study was to understand the mechanisms that underlie the association between the dopamine and tryptamines, and how they interact to influence brain chemistry,” Dr Martin Vlahos, who led the study, said.”
We found that the genes that are linked with dopamine metabolism and the genes involved in the dopamine metabolism were both located in the nucleus of the cell, a part of the brain that has not been well studied previously.
“The genes identified in the research were linked to a number of other brain-related traits, including inflammation, which affects how well a person responds to the environment.”
These findings suggest that we need to look beyond the normal genes we currently know to understand what is going on in the developing brain of schizophrenia,” Dr Vlahas said.
Professor Peter H. Miller, who was not involved in this study, from the University’s Department of Genetics and the School of Medicine, said the research showed that genetic analysis could be used to understand how the brain develops and changes.”
The research shows that there is a link between the chemical activity of tryptryptophan and dopamine metabolism that leads to changes in brain structure and function,” Professor Miller said.
The study also suggests that there could be ways to improve mental health through treatment of people with schizophrenia and the potential benefits of this are potentially huge.”
Although there are a lot of drugs currently available to treat schizophrenia, these drugs only work for a limited number of people,” Dr Miller said, “and these drugs are often quite expensive.
“As we know from previous research that schizophrenia is associated with increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions, there are many unanswered questions that need to be answered about how these drugs might be used.”
It’s a real possibility that we might find a new treatment that is effective and that will help people living with schizophrenia,” he said.
Follow the Australian Financial Report on Facebook.