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"Jumping Genes" Linked to Schizophrenia

January 3, 2014. People with schizophrenia have more "jumping genes"—bits of DNA that can move around and insert themselves into genes and disrupt their function—according to a new study published online January 2 in Neuron. The finding suggests that increased amounts of one particular troublemaker (termed L1) could contribute to schizophrenia.

Led by Tadafumi Kato, RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Saitama, Japan, and Kazuya Iwamoto, University of Tokyo, Japan, researchers compared the DNA from the brains of people with schizophrenia to that of healthy people and found higher levels of L1 in the illness. They also observed elevated L1 in people with schizophrenia who have an extra high genetic risk for the illness and in animal models created by manipulating the animals’ developmental environment. This suggests that both genetic and environmental risk factors for schizophrenia can lead to high L1 levels, write the authors. (For more details, see the related news story.)—Allison A. Curley.