April 10 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. researchers say they've spotted a gene variant that may raise the risk of schizophrenia in some people, a finding that may lead to new drug treatments.
The study involved a genetic analysis of 24 Canadian families that had multiple members with schizophrenia. A functional DNA change that increases gene expression was found in a gene called NOS1AP, said Dr. Linda Brzustowicz, a professor of genetics at Rutgers University in New Jersey, and colleagues.
The findings, published in the April issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, echo previous research that found increased expression of NOS1AP in the brains of people with schizophrenia.
Identifying this altered gene is an important step in learning more about schizophrenia, but much more research into other causes is required, Brzustowicz said. She noted that schizophrenia is not a single-gene disorder and there are environmental factors that are also important.
"It's not as though, if you have this altered gene, you will get the disease," she said in a Rutgers news release.
More than 40 percent of people in the general population have the gene variant, but only 1 percent have schizophrenia, and not all of those with the illness have the altered gene, Brzustowicz noted. But she added that the frequency of the altered gene is higher among people with schizophrenia than in the general population. For example, 55 percent of the schizophrenia patients in this study had the gene variant.
SOURCE: Rutgers, news release, April 7, 2009