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Schizophrenia is a constellation of symptoms such as hearing voices, false beliefs and trouble with thinking and concentration, and its cause is not exactly known. In that sense, schizophrenia is still an enigma. 

Studying the causes of disease  

  • Studies of schizophrenia among groups of varied ethnicities across the world have shown associations of the disease with alleles (variant genes) related to the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) – an important part of the immune system and related to a group of genes on chromosome six. However, the specific allele that was found to be associated with schizophrenia varied from group to group. 
  • Recently, a pilot study on a south Indian, Tamil-speaking group consisting of 97 people with schizophrenia and 103 controls was carried out by Schizophrenia Research Foundation (SCARF) and Jeevan Stem Cell Foundation, in Chennai. The study, published in International Journal of Immunogenetics finds an association of specific alleles with the disease. 
  • The paper shows an association between HLA variations and schizophrenia. HLA is important for proper functioning of immune system and its variations can lead to immunological abnormalities. When the immune system acts up, as in autoimmune disorders, generating anti-NMDA receptor antibodies, for example, it can lead to schizophrenia. 

What is Schizophrenia? 

  • It is a severe mental disorder, characterised by profound disruptions in thinking, affecting language, perception, and the sense of self. It affects more than 21 million people worldwide. 
  • Researchers believe that genetic as well as environmental factors such as exposure to viruses contribute to causation, and also life stressors may play a role in the disorder’s onset and course. 
  • It typically begins in late adolescence or early adulthood. It leads to Hallucinations, delusions, reduced speaking, reduced ability to understand information and decision making, trouble in focusing or paying attention etc. 
  • It is a treatable disorder. Therapy and support can help people learn social skills, cope with stress, identify early warning signs of relapse and prolong periods of remission. 
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