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Leeds Team Pursues Schizophrenia-related Genes

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – University of Leeds scientists will use a £400,000 ($613,000) grant from the UK’s Medical Research Council to try to identify specific genetic mutations that may be involved in schizophrenia.

The two-year project seeks to confirm earlier research from Leeds scientists that suggests that genetic mutations may be involved in an inherited form of the illness, and to identify those mutations.

The researchers, working with Leeds Partnerships NHS Foundation Trust, will start the project by focusing on families from the Pakistani community of West Yorkshire, many of whom settled in the region in the 1950s.

"If we can confirm which specific genes and processes are at fault, we can start to develop new treatments to target them," lead researcher Steve Clapcote from the University of Leeds’ Faculty of Biological Sciences said in a statement. "Our study is important because medicines currently used to treat schizophrenia aren't effective in about a third of patients and can also cause severe side effects," he added.

The researchers hope to apply any new genes they discover as potential targets for new drugs that could treat the disease, and not just the symptoms, with less side effects.

"In recent genetic studies of schizophrenia, researchers have usually studied large groups of unrelated people, looking for small increases in disease risk in a broad range of genes," Clapcote said. "This new research uses a simpler approach, by working with a much smaller group of related patients."

The researchers have already applied their approach with one family, and have found evidence of the presence and location of a mutation on chromosome 13 that may be involved in a genetic form of schizophrenia. They discovered that a child who inherits two copies of this mutation, generally through a marriage between cousins, is more likely to develop the illness.

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