After nearly 18 years of research, Australian and Indian scientists have found a new gene directly linked to schizophrenia.

Scientists from the University of Queensland in Australia, along with a team of Indian researchers searched the genomes of over 3,000 individuals and found that those with schizophrenia were more likely to have a particular genetic variation.

The team of Indian researchers was led by R. Thara, who is the co-founder and director of the Schizophrenia Research Foundation based in Chennai.

Bryan Mowry of the University of Queensland states that such studies had predominantly been done in populations with European ancestry, with more than 100 schizophrenia-associated variants having been identified previously.

“Looking at other populations can highlight different parts of the genome with a more robust association with the disease,” Mowry stated.

“This study identified a gene called NAPRT1 that encodes an enzyme involved in vitamin B3 metabolism—we were also able to find this gene in a large genomic dataset of schizophrenia patients with European ancestry,” Mowry elaborated.

“When we knocked out the NAPRT1 gene in zebrafish, brain development of the fish was impaired—we are now working to understand more deeply how this gene functions in the brain,” he added. “The zebrafish brain failed to divide symmetrically which is significant because MRI studies in people with schizophrenia have shown defects in the corpus callosum- the bridge between the left and right sides of the brain.”

Dr. Mowry has said that much of the variation in schizophrenia, which occurs in about one percent of the population, is due to genetic factors.

“Our studies aim to shed more light on what makes people susceptible to schizophrenia and possible treatments for the future. There are now a multitude of genetic variants linked to schizophrenia, but we don’t yet know what the hundreds of genes involved do,” he explained. “The next phase is to study their function in normal and diseased states using computational approaches and animal models, such as the zebrafish.”

According to a statement released by the university, Dr. Thara and Dr. Mowry met in the late 1990s as they discussed studying a population in India.

“Thara is a driving force for research into schizophrenia in India and her team in Chennai has been central in recruiting patients, while QBI has been able to fund the processing of blood samples they’ve collected,” Dr. Mowry stated

You can read the study here.

Scientists have found a new gene that is linked directly to schizophrenia. The gene, called NAPRT1, was discovered by a joint collaboration between Australian and Indian researchers. Arek Socha / Pixabay