Things are not always as they seem.
The idea that Schizophrenia is a distinct disease has been disputed for a while now. According to a research study by C. Robert Cloninger, MD, PhD of Washington University School of Medicine, Schizophrenia is not a distinct disease but rather a combination of eight disorders. Scientists attribute this to the fact that genes don’t work individually but rather in groups.
The scientists carrying out this research studies how different genes interacted with each other to produce illness and realized that specific genetic variations led to a 95% certainty of Schizophrenia. They studied the genetic makeup of more than 4,000 Schizophrenia patients and found that a specific set of DNA variation that was responsible for a 100% likelihood of developing this condition was also associated with disorganized speech and behaviour.
This study has proven that although a single gene in itself cannot be responsible for Schizophrenia, a set of them can interact to cause it. In this respect, C.Robert Cloninger, MD, PhD compares genes to an orchestra where every part has a specific role to play. In the study, scientists found 42 sets of genes that greatly increase the risk of Schizophrenia. This disproves earlier theories that Schizophrenia was caused by individual genes.
To get greater insight into how genetics contribute to the development of Schizophrenia, scientists further divided patients according to the type and severity of their symptoms. They came up with eight symptom profiles that they then matched to 8 distinct disorders that can be attributed to different genetic variations.
Due to this discovery, doctors may soon be able to treat specific symptoms of the condition by targeting specific genetic variations. This could also help doctors better understand diseases like diabetes and hypertension. Ultimately, this study provides a new clarity in psychiatry, a field often plagued with frustrations.
This breakthrough also means that the treatment of Schizophrenia could be easier and more effective in the future, leading to higher recovery rates. For a condition that only 1 out of 7 people ever fully recover, this is good news.
The Bottom Line
Although this study is a step in the right direction, there is still so much more that needs to be done to improve the diagnosis and treatment of Schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. Indeed we still have so much more to learn about this widely misunderstood condition.