Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Single gene might explain dramatic differences among people with schizophrenia

Some of the dramatic differences seen among patients with schizophrenia may be explained by a single gene that regulates a group of other schizophrenia risk genes. These findings appear in a new imaging-genetics study from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

The study revealed that people with schizophrenia who had a particular version of the microRNA-137 gene (or MIR137), tended to develop the illness at a younger age and had distinct brain features – both associated with poorer outcomes – compared to patients who did not have this version. This work, led by Drs. Aristotle Voineskos and James Kennedy, appears in the latest issue of Molecular Psychiatry.

Treating schizophrenia is particularly challenging as the illness can vary from patient to patient. Some individuals stay hospitalized for years, while others respond well to treatment.

"What's exciting about this study is that we could have a legitimate answer as to why some of these differences occur," explained Dr. Voineskos, a clinician-scientist in CAMH's Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute. "In the future, we might have the capability of using this gene to tell us about prognosis and how a person might respond to treatment."

"Drs. Voineskos and Kennedy's findings are very important as they provide new insights into the genetic bases of this condition that affects thousands of Canadians and their families," said Dr. Anthony Phillips, Scientific Director at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction.

Also, until now, sex has been the strongest predictor of the age at which schizophrenia develops in individuals. Typically, women tend to develop the illness a few years later than men, and experience a milder form of the disease.

"We showed that this gene has a bigger effect on age-at-onset than one's gender has," said Dr. Voineskos, who heads the Kimel Family Translational Imaging-Genetics Research Laboratory at CAMH. "This may be a paradigm shift for the field."

The researchers studied MIR137 — a gene involved in turning on and off other schizophrenia-related genes — in 510 individuals living with schizophrenia. The scientists found that patients with a specific version of the gene tended to develop the illness at a younger age, around 20.8 years of age, compared to 23.4 years of age among those without this version.

"Although three years of difference in age-at-onset may not seem large, those years are important in the final development of brain circuits in the young adult," said Dr. Kennedy, Director of CAMH's Neuroscience Research Department. "This can have major impact on disease outcome."

In a separate part of the study involving 213 people, the researchers used MRI and diffusion tensor-magnetic resonance brain imaging (DT-MRI). They found that individuals who had the particular gene version tended to have unique brain features. These features included a smaller hippocampus, which is a brain structure involved in memory, and larger lateral ventricles, which are fluid-filled structures associated with disease outcome. As well, these patients tended to have more impairment in white matter tracts, which are structures connecting brain regions, and serving as the information highways of the brain.

Developing tests that screen for versions of this gene could be helpful in treating patients earlier and more effectively.

"We're hoping that in the near future we can use this combination of genetics and brain imaging to predict how severe a version of illness someone might have," said Dr. Voineskos. "This would allow us to plan earlier for specific treatments and clinical service delivery and pursue more personalized treatment options right from the start."

This research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation and the Ontario Mental Health Foundation.

Media contact: Anita Dubey; (416) 535-8501 ext. 4932;

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada's largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital, as well as one of the world's leading research centres in its field.

CAMH combines clinical care, research, education, policy development and health promotion to help transform the lives of people affected by mental health and addiction issues. CAMH is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, and is a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Centre. For more information, please visit

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the Government of Canada's health research investment agency. CIHR's mission is to create new scientific knowledge and to enable its translation into improved health, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened Canadian health care system. Composed of 13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and support to more than 14,100 health researchers and trainees across Canada.

Anita Dubey | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht North and South Cooperation to Combat Tuberculosis
22.03.2018 | Universität Zürich

nachricht Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein
22.03.2018 | Universität Basel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Modular safety concept increases flexibility in plant conversion

22.03.2018 | Trade Fair News

New interactive map shows climate change everywhere in world

22.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

New technologies and computing power to help strengthen population data

22.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>