From worlds apart, siblings are tracing roots of schizophrenia
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The studies have been funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) in the US and the Department of Biotechnology and Department of Science and Technology in India.
Under the collaboration, doctors have primarily studied genes responsible for the pathways used by neurotransmitters, endogenous chemicals that transmit signals from a neuron to a target cell across a synapse. For each gene, single nucleotide polymorphisms — DNA sequence variations — and microsatellite markers have been compared.
Over 1,000 diagnosed schizophrenia patients and an equal number of control patients from India have participated in the programme since 1996. For some genes, an analysis of siblings and/or parents of the patients has also been done, and compared across the two ethnic groups.
The genetic mapping for Indian patients has been done under the supervision of Dr B K Thelma, professor of genetics in Delhi University. The role of every gene has been published as a separate paper — the latest on Neuregulin 1 (NRG1) has appeared in the January issue of the journal Schizophrenia Research.
A study to evaluate suicidal tendencies found that 42 per cent of patients in the US sample had "a serious desire to die during their most serious suicide attempt". In the Indian sample, only 18 per cent of the cases reported similar intent.
Among Caucasians, male patients were "significantly more likely" to be single and childless compared to females — 77.8 per cent males of the US sample had no children. In contrast, there were no significant gender differences in the larger Indian sample.
Dr Triptish Bhatia, research psychologist at RML Hospital who performed the cognitive analysis, said these differences could also be attributed to environmental factors like the presence of strong family support in India.
Dr Prachi Kukshal, who performed the laboratory analysis of the genes for the NRG1 study, said: "This was one of the genes where we found significant similarities with US patients. The only other gene which showed similarity was the NOTCH 4 gene."
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