Schizophrenia may not be a common mental disorder, but its symptoms can be quite debilitating. It is a chronic and severe mental problem, affecting an individual’s thinking, behavior and feelings. Though the exact causes of the disease are unknown, according to a recent study, they are mostly inherited.
Contrary to earlier belief, which stated that a combination of genetic, physical, environmental and psychological factors can lead to the development of the condition, a recent study by researchers from the University of Copenhagen revealed that genes play a bigger role in the development of the mental disorder. Almost 80 percent of an individual’s risk factors boil down to genetics, claimed the research.
The investigators studied more than 60,000 people and found that in 79 percent of the cases, the chance of suffering from the disorder could be attributed to genetic factors. Dr. Rikke Hilker, from the University of Copenhagen, termed the study as “the most comprehensive and thorough estimate of the heritability of schizophrenia and its diagnostic diversity.” It is interesting to note that the genetic risk for the disease was almost equal across the spectrum of schizophrenia, she added.
Twin study led to inheritance angle
The research examined the nationwide Danish Twin Register, which maintains a record of all twins born in Denmark since 1870, and the Danish Psychiatric Central Research Register. This provided the researchers an access to genetic liability in over 30,000 pairs of twins.
Since the diagnosis of schizophrenia has to depend on a narrow definition of the symptoms, the examiners also looked at hereditary by using a broader illness category, as well as other disorders related to the schizophrenia spectrum. Even here, they found a similar estimate of 73 percent pointing towards genetic factors across the full illness spectrum.
However, according to Dr. John Krystal, editor of Biological Psychiatry, the journal that published the findings of the study, earlier estimates have varied between 50 and 80 percent. “It supports the intensive efforts in place to try to identify the genes contributing to the risk of developing schizophrenia,” he said.
Abnormal blood vessels in the brain may trigger onset of schizophrenia
According to another research, conducted at the Trinity College, Dublin and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), abnormalities in the integrity of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) might be key in the development of schizophrenia and other brain disorders. Blood-brain barrier refers to the network of blood vessels that transport energy and nutrients in and out of the brain.
The findings were published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. According to Dr. Matthew Campbell, assistant professor in Neurovascular Genetics at Trinity, this is for the first time that any study has linked schizophrenia with abnormalities of the BBB. “The concept of tailoring drugs to regulate and treat abnormal brain blood vessels is a novel treatment strategy and offers great potential to complement existing treatments of this debilitating disease,” he said.
The researchers felt enriched with the findings. They said that these “greatly add to our understanding of this debilitating and socially isolating condition.” The symptoms of the disorder could be crippling, further alienating a patient from the society.
Dealing with schizophrenia
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “schizophrenia is a complex disorder which is increasingly being recognized as a collection of multiple disorders.” Moreover, the disorder affects more than 21 million people worldwide and 1.1 percent of the United States population in a given year.
If you have a loved one grappling with schizophrenia, seek immediate help from specialized rehabs in your vicinity. Sovereign Health, a leading behavioral health treatment provider in the U.S., has residential treatment centers for schizophrenia, which are the best in the country. Call at our 24/7 helpline if you want to know what is schizophrenia disorder. You can even chat online with our experts for further information related to the condition.