Scientists from Harvard Medical School have uncovered a major cause for schizophrenia, which lies in our genetic make-up. This new research is offering hope to schizophrenia sufferers and their families.
According to the research, people predisposed to schizophrenia are more likely to show increased levels of the Gene C4. This particular gene normally helps “prune” excess brain cell connections, to improve cognitive performance.
In schizophrenia sufferers though, C4 goes into overdrive and causes an abnormal loss of brain matter. As a result, patients can suffer from erratic behaviour, hallucinations, changes in speech and even paranoid delusions.
Professor Steven Hyman said this research is “the most significant mechanistic study about schizophrenia ever”. Over 29,000 schizophrenic patients were examined and 700 brains were studied post-mortem across 22 different countries.
“I’m a crusty old curmudgeonly sceptic, but I’m almost giddy about these findings”, Professor Hyman said. He believes this research could lead to improved understandings of schizophrenia, although potential interventions based on genetics are still a way off.
“It’s a very exciting situation we’re in now where we can see a clear association between a very microscopic process and a complex mental illness”, another researcher added. C4 genes can impact the development of schizophrenia even during adolescence, so it’s hoped this new research will lead to early diagnosis and better treatments in the future.