A study of one family with a high rate of schizophrenia indicates a never before known genetic cause of schizophrenia according to researchers from Johns Hopkins in an article in the Jan. 22, 2013, issue of the journal Molecular Psychiatry.
People with the mutation in the gene Neuronal PAS domain protein 3 (NPAS3) appear at high risk of developing schizophrenia or another debilitating mental illnesses. Normally functioning NPAS3 regulates the development of healthy neurons, especially in a region of the brain known as the hippocampus, which appears to be affected in schizophrenia.
Along with environmental factors, it is widely believed that many genes play some role in causing schizophrenia, a disease characterized by a variable combination of hallucinations, delusions, impaired cognition and a loss of drive and initiative. The disorder strikes an estimated seven in every 1,000 adults in the United States.
The discovery of a single gene in a single study does not mean that that gene mutation is the sole cause of schizophrenia but does lead researchers to a never before pathway to develop treatments for the disease.
A further consideration of the end result of this research will be what should be done with persons who commit crimes because they are schizophrenic. The simplicity of the blood test the researchers have developed could potentially eliminate some of the problems with convicting the mentally ill of crimes and placing these persons in prison.
The research was reviewed at the Eureka Alert website the date of publication.