Toronto: Scientists have stumbled upon unusual genetic configurations that explain why more schizophrenic patients tend to have them than normal people.
`De novo` mutations are genetic errors that are present in such patients but not in their parents, or in normal people, according to scientists led by Guy A. Rouleau of the University of Montreal and director of CHU Sainte-Justine Hospital.
Schizophrenia is a major mental disorder characterised by delusions, hallucinations, disturbances in thinking, and deterioration of social behaviours.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says as many as 24 million individuals worldwide suffer from schizophrenia and over half of them are not receiving any treatment.
The discovery may enable researchers to define how the disease results from these mutations and develop new lines of treatment for the condition, reports the journal Nature Genetics.
"The occurrence of de novo mutations, as observed in this study, may in part explain the high worldwide incidence of schizophrenia," says Rouleau, according to a Montreal statement.
"Because the mutations are located in many different genes, we can now start to establish genetic networks that would define how these gene mutations predispose to schizophrenia," adds Simon Girard, the student who performed key experiments on this discovery.
"Most of the genes identified in this study have not been previously linked to schizophrenia, thereby providing new potential therapeutic targets," says Girard.