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Polygenic Component Linked to Risk of Schizophrenia

Last Updated: July 09, 2009.

Common polygenic variation may be responsible for a considerable portion of the total genetic variation involved in schizophrenia risk, according to research published online July 1 in Nature.

THURSDAY, July 9 (HealthDay News) -- Common polygenic variation may be responsible for a considerable portion of the total genetic variation involved in schizophrenia risk, according to research published online July 1 in Nature.

Pamela Sklar, M.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues writing on behalf of the International Schizophrenia Consortium sought to discover whether common variants have a substantial role en masse in schizophrenia.

The authors used more than 3,000 males and females with the disease and more than 3,000 controls, and assessed further samples to replicate their findings and investigate whether the polygenic component is also associated with bipolar disorder. The researchers found a polygenic basis to schizophrenia, involving thousands of common alleles, that explains one-third or more of the variation in liability and is also shared with bipolar disorder.

"A highly polygenic model suggests that genetically influenced individual differences across domains of brain development and function may form a diathesis for major psychiatric illness, perhaps as multiple growth and metabolic pathways influence human height. Our results may also reflect heterogeneity, such that some patients have aetiologically distinct diseases. The shared genetic liability between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, previously suggested by clinical and genetic epidemiology, opens up the possibility of genetically based refinements in diagnosis," the authors write.

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