By Mary Sakacs
The well-known disease Schizophrenia is a major mental disorder that contains an array of ghastly symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, disordered speech and thinking, and a loss in social behaviors. Public health agency, World Health Organization, states that on average 24 million individuals worldwide suffer from the disease and more than half are not being treated correctly for their symptoms.
Genetics is a vital aspect when trying to identify why the disease affects those individuals who become ill from it. After an intense study lead by Dr. Guy A. Rouleau, head scientist at University of Montreal, the discovery of what they call de novo mutations, genetic errors that are present in patients but not in their parents, are more common in patients suffering from schizophrenia opposed to individuals who don’t have the disease. Dr. Rouleau's team performed a study where they analyzed 20,000 genes in participants to identify genetic mutations that related to schizophrenia.
This recent finding has led scientists to believe that this could be helpful in defining how the disease results from mutations (permanent change in the DNA sequence of a gene) and ultimately develop new treatments for it. Recognizing mutations that occur in a genomic sequence in our brains was something Dr. Rouleau had previously been noted for distinguishing when he was researching diseases that affect the brain. In Dr. Rouleau’s opinion, mutation may be the key factor for why schizophrenia occurs. One student, Simon Girard theorizes that since mutations take place in several genes, we can create genetic networks that will classify how mutations lead to schizophrenia.
I thought it was very interesting to find that genetics was such a significant factor in understanding why certain people have this disease and I find it curious that although parents may not have the cell errors to be born with the disease, they can still somehow pass this disease onto their children.
While it’s great that scientists can gain a better understanding on this serious disease and how it arises, it is also interesting to note how this information enhances their grasp on brain development and activity as well. The human brain is the center of the human nervous system and gaining as much knowledge on the functioning of it can help for finding solutions to issues that relate to the brain, in this case, better cures for patients suffering from schizophrenia. This makes me think that the deeper we look into the brain and the more we learn about how it works, the higher the likelihood that neuroscientists it is possible that scientists will discover improved ways to treat patients with serious diseases.
The brain is very complex but over time I believe that there is a good change that scientists will be able to fully comprehend the workings behind it and ailments that cannot be healed today will have a better chance of being mended in the future.
Mary Sakacs is a student at Fairleigh Dickinson University majoring in Communications studies. She is currently an editorial intern at Bioscience Technology.