Schizophrenia Cause: Neural Circuits, Not Mom
Aug. 8, 2011 - An unlucky collection of tiny changes in the genetic code causes most cases of schizophrenia, a game-changing new study finds.
These "de novo" mutations aren't passed on from parents to their children, helping to explain why so many cases of schizophrenia occur in people with no family history of mental illness.
The finding, by Columbia University psychiatrist Maria Karayiorgou, MD, and colleagues, comes from a "deep gene sequencing" study of 53 people with schizophrenia and 22 people without the condition, and their parents.
"I think it is a huge relief for many of the families affected by schizophrenia to know that there is a clear cause for their disease -- which has been doubted many times -- and that the parents did not pass it on to their child," Karayiorgou tells WebMD.
The "fascinating study" is the tipping point toward a new understanding of schizophrenia, says Michael L. Cuccaro, PhD, associate professor at the University of Miami's Hussman Institute for Human Genomics. Cuccaro was not involved in the Karayiorgou study.
"This is evidence that points us in a different direction," Cuccaro tells WebMD. "There has been a real shift from thinking of schizophrenia as having a distinct genetic cause to seeing it as an accumulation of rare genetic events."