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Schizophrenia gene: a family link fades.

Schizophrenia gene: A family link fades

With much fanfare, scientists recently announced they were closing in on a gene predisposing its bearers to schizophrenia, a severe mental disorder afflicting about 1 in 100 people worldwide (SN: 11/12/88, p.308).

But simultaneous evidence from another research team suggested schizophrenia is too complex to result from a single gene -- a contention now supported by a report from Scotland and an ongoing investigation at the University of Utah.

The genetic locale initially linked to a purported schizophrenia-predisposition gene occupies a small portion of chromosome 5. DNA-cutting enzymes revealed a common genetic variation on chromosome 5 among schizophrenics in seven families. The technique hinges on studying DNA samples from large families with many schizophrenic members.

Using this approach, psychiatrist David St. Clair of the University of Edinburgh and his colleagues find no link between the inheritance of the chromosome 5 variation and schizophrenia in 15 Scottish families, they report in the May 25 NATURE. They analyzed DNA from 166 family members, 44 of whom were diagnosed schizophrenics. Another 31 members had other psychiatric diagnoses.

A link to chromosome 5 still did not show up when the researchers included in the schizophrenia group four members of the families with diagnoses closely related to schizophrenia, the team asserts.

In families with many schizophrenics in two or more generations, the susceptibility gene on chromosome 5 - if it does indeed exist -- contributes to only a minority of schizophrenic cases, the Scottish researchers conclude.

"We're 90 percent sure we have no linkage [of schizophrenia] to the chromosome 5 region previously studied," adds psychiatrist William Byerley, director of a similar study at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Byerley and his co-workers, whose study is nearing completion, are using several enzyme "markers" to examine the DNA of six families living in Utah, all of northern European ancestry. Genetic material was obtained from 60 individuals, 24 of whom had a diagnosis of schizophrenia.
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Author:Bower, B.
Publication:Science News
Date:Jun 10, 1989
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