TR Editors' blog

More than a Hundred Genetic Variants Tied to Schizophrenia

A multinational research collaboration has identified more than 100 genetic loci associated with an increased risk for the psychiatric disease.

David Rotman 22/07/2014

To a large extent, schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders are illnesses caused by genes. Now teams of scientists from research centers around the world, looking at the genetics of nearly 80,000 people, have worked together to identify 108 genetic loci associated with the disorder. It is the largest genetic study ever conducted of a psychiatric disorder.

Researchers are finally beginning to gain some scientific understanding of many common brain disorders, including schizophrenia (see “Shining a Light on Madness”). The lack of such understanding to date has meant there hasn’t been a true new breakthrough drug to treat these disorders in 50 years. And while we’re still far from turning new insights into effective and safe drugs, at least the emerging knowledge is giving researchers some options in exploring potential treatments.

In today’s study, published in Nature, the scientists pointed out that, importantly, the more than 100 variants were not randomly distributed but tend to affect genes expressed in certain tissues and cell types. That’s good news because it suggests that despite the genetic complexity, drug researchers might be able to zero in on specific common pathways or types of cells in attempts to tackle these disorders.

In announcing the results, leading scientists at the Broad Institute, one of the groups in the collaboration, touted the results as a turning point in how we view brain disorders. “Five years ago, we didn’t know a single gene related to these [psychiatric] diseases, not a [single] pathway,” said Eric Lander, Broad’s director. It was a perspective echoed by Steven Hyman, director of Broad’s Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research: “We’ve turned with this Nature paper [and related research] what had been a scientifically forbidding and featureless landscape into a landscape with toeholds and opportunities and glimmers of hope.”

 

 

Seven Must-Read Stories (Week Ending July 19, 2014)

Another chance to catch the most interesting, and important, articles from the previous week on MIT Technology Review.

MIT Technology Review 18/07/2014

  1. How Can a Civilian Plane Accidentally Be Shot Down?
    It’s not certain whether Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was brought down because of mistaken identity, but it is plausible.
  2. Jibo the Family Robot Might Be Oddly Charming, or Just Plain Odd
    The “world’s first family robot” is based on efforts to elicit emotional response in humans—a powerful idea, but one fraught with challenges.
  3. Energy Demands of Networked Devices Skyrocket
    As the Internet of things grows to encompass billions of devices, its power usage will require novel technologies for improving efficiency.
  4. Thermoelectric Material to Hit Market Later This Year
    A California-based company is commercializing an abundant, naturally occurring material that can turn waste heat into power.
  5. Flexible, Printed Batteries for Wearable Devices
    Imprint Energy is developing a long-lasting, bendable, and rechargeable battery.
  6. An Explanation of the Evidence of Weaknesses in the Iron Dome Defense System
  7. Forget the Wisdom of Crowds; Neurobiologists Reveal the Wisdom of the Confident
    The wisdom of crowds breaks down when people are biased. Now researchers have discovered a simple method of removing this bias–just listen to the most confident.

Recommended from Around the Web (Week Ending July 19, 2014)

A roundup of the most interesting stories from other sites, collected by the staff at MIT Technology Review.

MIT TR Editors 18/07/2014

Amazon, a Friendly Giant as Long as It’s Fed
Amazon has become the most powerful force in the book business—but is the company helping an old medium adapt to the digital era or simply building a monopoly?
Tom Simonite, senior editor, IT

Can the World’s Most Promising Electric-Car Battery Be Saved?
Interesting story about how a much-hyped battery technology’s star might be fading, much to the chagrin of the big automakers that bet on it.
Mike Orcutt, research editor

You Gotta Read This!
John Borthwick looks at the data and finds a dichotomy: digital readers are skimming and reposting, while also spending more time on longer pieces.
Nanette Byrnes, senior editor, business reports

The Industrial Revolution That Never Was
The role of technology in determining how the Industrial Revolution took hold.
Brian Bergstein, deputy editor

World Cup Moments Re-Created in 8-Bit Art
Brazilian artist supplies plenty of giggle-worthy images by transforming World Cup soccer moments into Atari-style illustrations.
—J. Juniper Friedman, editorial assistant

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