Study offers clues to genetic abnormality of C4 genes associated with schizophrenia

“The January 2016 AMA newsletter reports DNA testing showing an abnormality of the C4 genes associated with a much higher incidence of schizophrenia. Other recent publications report improvements in schizophrenia if treatment  began early and involve the family.” Bill Chesnut, MD

Study offers clues to biology behind schizophrenia

On its front page, the New York Times (1/27, A1, Carey, Subscription Publication) reports that a new study published online Jan. 27 in Nature takes “a significant step toward understanding the cause of schizophrenia,” providing “the first rigorously tested insight into the biology behind any common psychiatric disorder.”

In “Science Now,” the Los Angeles Times (1/27, Healy) reports, “After conducting genetic tests on nearly 65,000 people, the scientists followed a trail of clues to a group of genes in the” major histocompatibility complex (MHC) “called C4 genes.” Investigators “found that people with certain variants of C4 genes had unusually high odds of developing schizophrenia, even in the absence of other genetic risks.” By demonstrating “a link between C4 and synaptic pruning,” the study “builds on theories that the over-editing of brain connections in late adolescence might be ‘a contributing cause’ of schizophrenia.”

The Washington Post (1/27, Nutt) reports in “Speaking of Science” that in people “with schizophrenia, a variation in a single position in the DNA sequence marks too many synapses for removal and that pruning goes out of control,” resulting in “an abnormal loss of gray matter.” According to the Post, the “study offers a new approach to schizophrenia research, which has been largely stagnant for decades.”

AMA News 1.28.16