UCLA researchers have found a link between a genetic variant known as SNPs and schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease.
The study was published online by the journal Nature Neuroscience.
Lead author, Professor of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Dr. Jodi E. Milken, told the Los Angeles Times, “It is a very exciting finding.
We can now think about a number of different diseases that may be associated with SNPs, but not just schizophrenia.”SNPs, or single nucleotide polymorphisms, are small genetic variants that occur in the DNA of a single person.
They can cause a genetic disorder or cause the body to produce different proteins.
In this case, researchers found a variant called rs694925, which is associated with schizophrenia, was associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s.
The study found the same variant was associated more frequently with schizophrenia and with a more severe form of the disease.
“The association with schizophrenia is intriguing, but the association with Alzheimer’s is more compelling,” Milken said.
“Alzheimer’s disease is more prevalent among older adults, and we know that those individuals are more likely to develop schizophrenia.”
This research adds to the evidence that the brain is more vulnerable to disease than previously thought, but Milken believes more research is needed to identify the genetic factors behind the link.
“There’s been a lot of research about the brain, but we’re still learning about many more mechanisms of disease,” Milkens said.
“Our next step is to look at how genes influence the brain.
If we find that there’s a genetic factor that impacts the brain in some way, that would be a very interesting finding.”
Dr. Michael N. Siegel, an associate professor of psychiatry and neurology at Yale University and co-director of Yale’s Schizophrenia Clinic, told ABC News he was “pleased” the study was “well done” and that it could lead to better treatments.
Siegel also said the research could have important implications for the prevention and treatment of schizophrenia.
“We need to understand what is happening in the brain of schizophrenia patients,” Siegel said.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, approximately 15% of people with schizophrenia have an affected family member or close friend.
“I’m very pleased that we have found something new, and I think it will be important to explore what other pathways are involved in this,” Sigmund Freud, the founder of the field of psychoanalysis, said in a statement.
“Schizophrenia patients with relatives, close friends and even co-workers have an increased incidence of this disease,” Freud said.