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Schizophrenia cure 'a long way off'

Schizophrenia has complex genetic characteristics

Scientists believe that identifying the specific genes that cause schizophrenia
could a long time off.

It follows a US study, which found that people with schizophrenia have different
combinations of genes depending on their ethnic origins.

The study found significant differences between patients with European-American

and African-American backgrounds.

The authors said their finding highlights the complexity of the condition, which
affects one in 100 people.

It will be some time before the specific genes that are responsible will be

Debbie Tsuang, University of Washington

Scientists at the University of Washington examined four specific chromosomes to

determine if they contained genes that contribute to schizophrenia.

Like previous studies, they found an association between the chromosomes, 13 and

However, the found no such link with the other two chromosomes, 12 and 16.

Ethnic differences

Their study is among the first to include large samples of Americans with both
European and African backgrounds.

They found that the association between chromosome 15 and schizophrenia in

European-American families was positive while there was no such link in African-
American families.

Speaking at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology annual meeting in

Hawaii on Sunday, Debby Tsuang who headed the study said: "This was one of the
strongest results of our analysis.

"It means that different combinations of genes may contribute to schizophrenia in

different groups."

The work of scientists if complicated further by the fact that the two chromosomes
that show a positive linkage to schizophrenia contain hundreds of genes that could
contribute to the condition.

"Currently, there is no good way to decipher which of these genes is directly

responsible," said Tsuang.

"Due to the complex genetic characteristics of schizophrenia, it will likely be

some time before the specific genes that are responsible will be identified and
even longer before treatments based on these findings become possible."

A spokesman for the National Schizophrenia Fellowship said the condition may be
caused by a range of other factors.
"Anyone looking for a single 'Big Bang' theory for the development of
schizophrenia is likely to be disappointed. Schizophrenia is a very complex and
poorly understood condition.

"Its causes, and there may be many, involve an interaction of various genes and
environmental factors in ways that have not been defined."