Trinity plays key role in global schizophrenia breakthrough

Findings have potential to kickstart development of new treatments

Trinity College Dublin: as part of the Psychiatric Genomics  Consortium, it has found 108 locations in the genome associated with schizophrenia. Photograph: Frank Miller

Trinity College Dublin: as part of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, it has found 108 locations in the genome associated with schizophrenia. Photograph: Frank Miller

Tue, Jul 22, 2014, 04:30

An international scientific collaboration has found 108 locations in the human genome associated with schizophrenia.

Trinity College Dublin was a significant contributor to that effort along with 3,500 Irish participants in the study.

Researchers around the world are searching the genome for genes associated with various diseases. More and more, they are joining to form wider groups with the ability to do massive studies involving tens of thousands of participants.

This approach was brought into play by the schizophrenia working group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, an international collaboration that includes Trinity scientists.

It spent several years analysing more than 80,000 genetic samples – including the Irish ones – from schizophrenia patients and healthy volunteers. The results are published online today in the journal Nature.

Valuable information

It identified 108 specific locations that had a link with the disorder, including some that had already been identified.

Eighty three of these were newly discovered links offering valuable information that could help in the discovery of new drugs and treatments for this challenging disorder that affects one in every 100 people here.

Schizophrenia causes a range of symptoms including hallucinations and delusions and often emerges in young adults. It has a tremendous impact on the person and their families, and existing drug therapies are limited and dated.

“In genomics, collaboration is key,” said Prof Aiden Corvin, professor of psychiatry in Trinity’s school of medicine and one of the lead authors of the study.

“Now that we have more pieces of the puzzle, we are starting to group genes into identifiable pathways so that we can explore schizophrenia at a biological level.”

The findings “have the potential to kickstart the development of new treatments in schizophrenia,” said Prof Michael O’Donovan based at Cardiff University school of medicine and the paper’s senior author.

Psychiatric genetics

“This is perhaps the most important study in psychiatric genetics to date,” said Dr Gerome Breen, of the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London.

“This study has the potential to revolutionise functional studies and to speed up the development of badly needed new treatments.”

Funding for the consortium comes from the US National Institute of Mental Health.