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Psychotic Biology: Genes yield clues to schizophrenia's roots

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10:30am, September 25, 2002

Scientists have identified two genes that, in certain molecular guises, may contribute to schizophrenia by disrupting transmission of a crucial chemical messenger in the brain.

While the presence of each gene variant by itself makes it more likely that a person will develop this severe mental disorder, this risk is greatly magnified when the two occur together, according to a team led by geneticist Daniel Cohen of the biotechnology firm Genset S.A. in Evry, France.

Both genes produce proteins that influence the activity of NMDA receptors, a class of molecular docking stations on brain cells. Since 1996, researchers have proposed that disturbances of these receptors for the neurotransmitter glutamate contribute to schizophrenia symptoms, including confused thinking and hallucinations.

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