Western University schizophrenia study helps find personalized treatment

A Western University study suggests that the differences in genetic makeup among people living with schizophrenia can help with individualized treatment.

The study looked at the genetic differences in two sets of identical twins

Western biology professor Shiva Singh was lead researcher on the study of the genetic causes of schizophrenia. (Submitted by Western University)

A Western University study suggests that the changes in a person's genetic makeup can help with individualized treatment for schizophrenia.

After a two-decade long study, Western researchers discovered that the genetic makeup of a pair of rare identical twins — one twin had schizophrenia and the other did not — was not in fact identical.

Lead researcher Shiva Singh, a science professor at the university, said that the genetic makeup of the individuals changed overtime as they grew. Often times, the patient living with schizophrenia had more genetic mutations. 

"We were interested in, from a genetic level, what causes someone to develop schizophrenia ... we are really excited about [the results]," he said, citing that it paves the way for tailored treatment. 

How they did it

Researchers mapped out the complete genetic roadmap of each individual and carefully monitored change over the span of 20 years.

Singh said that schizophrenia may be caused by an array of gene mutations that may develop as an individual grows and ages.

As a result of the study, Singh said, patients living with schizophrenia can now be scanned for a complete genome sequence, needed to identify any abnormalities.

Often, patients have to try many different drugs before they find out what works for them. Now, genetic sequencing can tell treatment providers which biochemical pathways in the brain have been affected by a mutation.

"It offers hope that we can offer a DNA diagnosis of the condition," he said.

The study had the backing of researchers from the John Hopkins University School of Medicine. It was published in the journal Clinical and Translational Medicine in November.