A major breakthrough in understanding schizophrenia has revealed that schizophrenia is actually eight separate genetic diseases, according to researchers. There is not just one type of all-encompassing schizophrenia as psychiatrists once believed; the eight different diseases are genetically different from each other and present their own unique symptoms, according to researchers from the University of Granada and the University of Washington.
— Joe Ward (@joeetward) January 13, 2015
Schizophrenia has been one of the least understood of all mental illnesses. Many people still incorrectly believe that it is synonymous with multiple personality disorder, but according to new research, even psychiatrists have not been viewing it in the correct light. The research has been published in the acclaimed American Journal of Psychiatry, and according to Medical News Today, the new understanding of the eight genetic diseases categorized as schizophrenia will help patients get better treatment.
Though it has been widely accepted that schizophrenia has a genetic component, scientists had no clue what genes made people more susceptible to schizophrenia. The study used 4,196 patients who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and they were divided up according to the severity of symptoms and the type of symptoms. The researchers identified how genes interacted with each other.
“Genes do not operate on their own, in an isolated manner,” Professor Igor Zwir, co-author of of the article, explained. “They rather work with each other as an orchestra. To understand how they work, we must not just know what each member of this orchestra is like, but also how they interact with each other.”
The genes involved with schizophrenia work together to disturb the structure and the functions of the brain in different ways depending on the type of schizophrenia. Previously, people were looking at individual genes, but this team looked at the interaction networks of gene groups.
The team even identified the networks of gene groups of one type of schizophrenia in people who suffer from symptoms like incongruity of speech and chaotically organized behavior. The network of genes these people have left them so genetically unlucky that they had zero chance of escaping the development of their type of schizophrenia, according to the press release.
“Researchers found a total of 42 genes groups that influenced in a variety of ways the risk of suffering schizophrenia. They also replicated their finds in two independent samples of individuals with schizophrenia, an index that these networks are a valid path for the exploration and improvement of the diagnosis and treatment of this disease.”
While the idea that some people have a 100 percent chance of developing schizophrenia no matter what they do might seem hopeless, Zwir said that it is this discovery, dividing the disease into eight separate diseases, that has made it so that “it will soon be possible to determine a possible localized treatment for the specific paths that cause schizophrenia.”
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