Boston: Scientists seems to have uncovered how schizophrenia is triggered. A study described as a 'turning point' in tackling mental illness has revealed the biological cause of schizophrenia. For the first time scientists have linked schizophrenia to a physical process, the 'pruning' of unwanted connections between brain neurons.
The researchers from the Broad Institute, Harvard Medical School and Children's Hospital in Boston, found that a person's risk of schizophrenia is increased if he inherits variants of a gene important to "synaptic pruning" - the healthy reduction during adolescence of brain cell connections that are no longer required.
In patients suffering from schizophrenia, a variation in a single position in DNA sequence marks synapses for removal and that pruning goes out of control. The result is an abnormal loss of gray matter.
In July 2014, Broad Institute researchers published the results of the biggest genomic research on the disorder and found over 100 genetic locations linked to schizophrenia.
Based on that research, Harvard geneticist Steven McCarroll examined data from 29,000 schizophrenia cases, 36,000 controls and 700 postmortem brains. The information was taken from dozens of studies performed in 22 countries, all of which contribute to the worldwide database called the Psychiatric Genome Consortium.
The study has been published in the journal Nature.