Rooting out schizophrenia

Paul Goldsmith, August 26th, 2013
  • Image courtesy of Bang Wong, Broad Institute

What: In one of the largest systematic analyses of schizophrenia to date, researchers from the Broad’s Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research and elsewhere identified 13 new areas of the genome linked to schizophrenia.

“Though there are still many pieces of the puzzle yet to be discovered this study provides a good collection of possible drug targets,” said co-first author Stephan Ripke.

In addition, the study, which involved more than 30,000 individual patient and control samples, demonstrates the power of large consortium studies. While earlier studies had demonstrated the existence of these variants, the findings were considered statistically inconclusive because of the small sample groups involved in the research.

“By pooling their samples, our colleagues greatly increased the sample size of the study, and gave us the power to detect association to disease,” said co-first author Colm O’Dushlaine. “Simply put, a culture of collaborative transparency and trust made this discovery possible.”

Who: An international team of scientists from the Broad Institute’s Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research, Massachusetts General Hospital, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and elsewhere. Broad contributors include Stephan Ripke (co-first author), Colm O’Dushlaine (co-first author), Kimberly Chambert, Jennifer Moran, Nick Sanchez, Brenden K. Bulik-Sullivan, Benjamin Neale, Edward Scolnick, Shaun Purcell, and Steven McCarroll.

Why: Schizophrenia affects more than 3 million Americans. Although schizophrenia has a demonstrated genetic component—underscored by its tendency to run in families—researchers have often struggled to understand the genetic nature of the disease. The Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute was founded to uncover the genetic and molecular causes of schizophrenia and other common psychiatric diseases, and to translate those findings into new diagnostic and therapeutic methods. Results, such as these, enable researchers to zero in on the genetic pathways that allow schizophrenia to develop.

“This publication not only identifies new loci that contribute to schizophrenia, but also puts beyond doubt the central role of common variation in schizophrenia risk,” said Stanley Center director Steve Hyman.

Where to find it: Nature Genetics