The research by scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Japan's Riken Brain Science Institute might lead to new treatments for the psychiatric illness that afflicts an estimated 51 million people worldwide.
By studying genetically engineered mice and the genetic makeup of schizophrenic individuals, the MIT and Japanese scientists say they pinpointed the PPP3CC gene and other genes in the early growth response gene family (specifically, EGR3) as likely suspects for causing the disease.
Those genes are critical in the signaling pathway for the brain enzyme calcineurin, which is prevalent in the central nervous system and plays a role in many neuronal functions whose disturbances would result in the disorganized thinking, attention deficits, memory and language problems that characterize schizophrenia.
The researchers confirmed the PPP3CC gene is involved in diagnosed schizophrenia in Caucasian, African-American and Japanese individuals. EGR3 involvement was confirmed through a separate test.
The study is reported in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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