Researchers identify a new genetic risk factor for severe psychiatric illness

November 19, 2013

MANHASSET, NY - Investigators at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research have discovered a new genetic risk factor for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder called NDST3. The findings are published online in Nature Communications.

The study, by a team lead by Todd Lencz, PhD, associate investigator at the Zucker Hillside Hospital Department of Psychiatry Research and Feinstein Institute, studied more than 25,000 individuals. In collaboration with Ariel Darvasi, PhD, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Dr. Lencz has been working with a set of DNA samples from patients with schizophrenia and healthy volunteers drawn from the Ashkenazi Jewish population. The Ashkenazi Jewish population represents a unique population for study because of its short (less than 1,000-year) history and limited population. This history results in a more uniform genetic background in which to identify disease-related variants.

"This study again demonstrates the value of our Ashkenazi cohort," said Dr. Lencz. "It is notable that the genetic variant was replicated in samples of various ethnicities from all around the world, but the effects were strongest in the Ashkenazi cohort, presumably due to their unique genetic history."

Dr. Lencz's team reported that the genetic variant, which changes a single "letter" of the DNA code, alters the expression of the gene NDST3. This gene is critical to neurodevelopmental processes such as axon formation and synaptic function. These findings shed new light on the genetic architecture and potential therapeutic targets for the treatment of psychiatric disease.

Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are severe psychiatric disorders that affect 1-4 percent of the global population. Studies have shown that the two disorders are likely to have a large overlap in genetic risk factors, but only a small portion of this genetic risk has been identified.

This work was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), funded as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (also known as the economic stimulus plan). More recently, the work by Drs. Lencz and Darvasi with the Ashkenazi schizophrenia cohort has received an additional $3 million from the NIMH, as well as grants from the Brain & Behavior Foundation and the Binational Science Foundation.

Dr. Lencz is also the co-leader of The Ashkenazi Genomics Consortium, a collaborative effort involving more than a dozen investigators from leading institutions (including Columbia University, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine and MIT), using similar strategies to understand the genetic basis of diseases including cancer, diabetes, and Parkinson's.
-end-
About The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research

Headquartered in Manhasset, NY, The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research is home to international scientific leaders in many areas including Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, psychiatric disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, sepsis, human genetics, pulmonary hypertension, leukemia, neuroimmunology, and medicinal chemistry. The Feinstein Institute, part of the North Shore-LIJ Health System, ranks in the top 6th percentile of all National Institutes of Health grants awarded to research centers. For more information, visit http://www.FeinsteinInstitute.org.

Northwell Health

Related Schizophrenia Articles from Brightsurf:

Schizophrenia: When the thalamus misleads the ear
Scientists at the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the Synapsy National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) have succeeded in linking the onset of auditory hallucinations - one of the most common symptoms of schizophrenia - with the abnormal development of certain substructures of a region deep in the brain called the thalamus.

Unlocking schizophrenia
New research, led by Prof. LIU Bing and Prof. JIANG Tianzi from the Institute of Automation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and their collaborators have recently developed a novel imaging marker that may help in the personalized medicine of psychiatric disorders.

Researchers discover second type of schizophrenia
In a study of more than 300 patients from three continents, over one third had brains that looked similar to healthy people.

New clues into the genetic origins of schizophrenia
The first genetic analysis of schizophrenia in an ancestral African population, the South African Xhosa, appears in the Jan.

Dietary supplement may help with schizophrenia
A dietary supplement, sarcosine, may help with schizophrenia as part of a holistic approach complementing antipsychotic medication, according to a UCL researcher.

Schizophrenia: Adolescence is the game-changer
Schizophrenia may be related to the deletion syndrome. However, not everyone who has the syndrome necessarily develops psychotic symptoms.

Study suggests overdiagnosis of schizophrenia
In a small study of patients referred to the Johns Hopkins Early Psychosis Intervention Clinic (EPIC), Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers report that about half the people referred to the clinic with a schizophrenia diagnosis didn't actually have schizophrenia.

The ways of wisdom in schizophrenia
Researchers at UC San Diego School of Medicine report that persons with schizophrenia scored lower on a wisdom assessment than non-psychiatric comparison participants, but that there was considerable variability in levels of wisdom, and those with higher scores displayed fewer psychotic symptoms.

Recognizing the uniqueness of different individuals with schizophrenia
Individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia differ greatly from one another. Researchers from Radboud university medical center, along with colleagues from England and Norway, have demonstrated that very few identical brain differences are shared amongst different patients.

Resynchronizing neurons to erase schizophrenia
Today, a decisive step in understanding schizophrenia has been taken.

Read More: Schizophrenia News and Schizophrenia Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.