August 9, 2013. A genetic test already used to diagnose autism and developmental delays may be useful to find rare chromosomal abnormalities in schizophrenia, suggests a new study published online July 14, 2013, in Human Molecular Genetics. Using the test in a real-world clinical setting, lead study author Anne Bassett of the University of Toronto in Canada and colleagues found that a substantial 8 percent of the nearly 500 schizophrenia subjects tested had deleted or duplicated pieces of DNA that were not found in healthy controls. At present, it is impossible to blame those specific DNA abnormalities for schizophrenia, but current and future research may eventually allow for such conclusions.
Some individuals with schizophrenia have an abnormal amount of DNA, either missing pieces or extra copies of some genes. Although certain physical features are often a telltale sign of these chromosomal abnormalities (which have been linked to many other disorders as well), the researchers in the current study did not find such physical differences in the schizophrenia group, suggesting that the genetic test would be the only way to find the changed chromosomes. Right now, knowing whether people carry one of these genetic abnormalities wouldn’t change how their illness is managed, but that may change as more research leads to new treatment guidelines in the future. (For more details, see the related news story.)—Allison A. Curley.