Schizophrenia Genes in Africa
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Even though Africans have the greatest degree of genetic diversity, a mere three percent of all study participants in genetic studies are of African descent. That’s why a study to better understand schizophrenia took place in Africa where ninety-nine percent of human evolution occurred.

Researchers recruited eighteen hundred people in the Xhosa (Koh-sah) population, an ancestral African people. About nine hundred were schizophrenic and the other half was the control group. They found in general the Xhosa have greater genetic variation than non-Africans. They also saw that the schizophrenic group is much more likely to have rare damaging genetic mutations. They’re more likely to have unique variants with more than one change in the same gene.

These genetic variants have major consequences because they’re involved in brain development and neural connections. The pattern and strength of our neural connections are important in learning, memory and personality. Something going wrong here can lead to psychiatric disorders. This study suggests the disease begins during brain development so even though the symptoms may be subtle in childhood, they get pronounced later.

Genetic research has had a gap with eighty percent of its study participants from European populations. Since this study is working with a larger gene pool, perhaps they’ll get leads into a disease that has been tough to treat.

For more information…

Genetics of schizophrenia in the South African Xhosa
Africa, the ancestral home of all modern humans, is the most informative continent for understanding the human genome and its contribution to complex disease. To better understand the genetics of schizophrenia, we studied the illness in the Xhosa population of South Africa...

First genomic study of schizophrenia in African people turns up broken genes
Genetic studies of mental illness have largely been conducted in people with European ancestry...