dna strands
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Scientists have identified a gene they say is directly linked to schizophrenia in an important development after 18 years of extensive brain and genetic research.

A team of scientists from Australia and India studied the DNA of over 3,000 Indians in a quest to find the causes of schizophrenia and potential treatments. They discovered that people with the condition were more likely to have a gene variation called NAPRT1, which encodes an enzyme involved in vitamin B3 metabolism.

"We were also able to find this gene in a large genomic dataset of schizophrenia patients with European ancestry,"said Bryan Mowry from the University of Queensland.

Similar studies have been carried out on populations with largely European ancestry, and more than 100 schizophrenia-associated variants have been identified. Scientists want to look at other populations to "highlight different parts of the genome with a more robust association with the disease," Mowry said.

When the team "knocked out" the NAPRT1 gene in zebrafish, they found its brain development was impaired and they are working to learn more about how the gene functions in the brain.

"The zebrafish brain failed to divide symmetrically which is significant, because MRI studies in people with schizophrenia have shown defects in the corpus callosum - the bridge between the left and right sides of the brain," Mowry explained.

The scientists hope their studies can reveal more about what makes people susceptible to schizophrenia, and help with potential future treatments.