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Genetics of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a rare and grave mental illness. It accounts for less than 1%of mental illnesses. The disease is symptomatically associated with delusions and constant hallucinations. Typically, the onset of the disease is in the early twenties and despite therapy and medication, its symptoms persist throughout the rest of adult life. In spite of the generalized assumption that mental illnesses such as schizophrenia have a genetic basis, intricate studies of the relationship between mutations, genes and diseases supported by technological advancements have done little to validate this assumption.

Rather than dedicated research into the genetics of schizophrenia elucidating the factors that trigger the mental illness, these efforts have revealed the incredible complexity of the disease. A number of studies have established that schizophrenia is inherited, thereby revealing that genes play a role in its onset. However, this heritability factor is only applicable to a minority of those who suffer from the disease, as the larger majority does not have a family history of schizophrenia. In effect, the discovery of the “schizophrenia gene” has proved futile, even though concerted efforts to do so have been carried out for decades.

Annabel Bligh reports that a recent study on the genetics of schizophrenia involved blood sampling almost 7,000 Swedes and Bulgarians. The samples were thereafter examined and compared on the basis of those with and without a history of the disease. Valuable insight into the inheritability of schizophrenia was revealed. The research findings enabled scientists to not only isolate patterns relevant to the biology that underlies the disease, but to also locate genetic mutation sites responsible for its advent. However, as Bligh further expounds, the resounding conclusion from the research was that the disease has a genetic basis that is very complex. This invalidates the assumption that specific genes are responsible for the disease. On the contrary, the research established that various genetic mutations are implicated in the development of schizophrenia.

Even so, Bligh asserts that these research findings are applicable to only 5% of the overall cases of schizophrenia, implying that 95%of the cases are still mysterious. The implication is genetic factors only account for a small portion of the cases of the disease and the vast majority of them remain unexplained. However, with more intricate analysis of our DNA taking place on the backdrop of technological advancements, it is reasonable to assume that it is just a matter of time before schizophrenia’s genetic foundation is revealed. Nevertheless, the relevance that any discoveries tying the disease to genetics will have to the majority of those who suffer from it remains to be seen.