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Collaborations yield new discoveries in psychiatric genetics

ology at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJMS) and an adjunct assistant professor in Rutgers' department of genetics. He is also a resident faculty member of the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, a research enterprise jointly operated by both institutions. Brustowicz is a professor of genetics at Rutgers, a board certified psychiatrist and an associate professor of psychiatry at the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School; DiCicco-Bloom is a professor of neuroscience and cell biology at UMDNJ-RWJMS.

A second team led by Brustowicz and Bonnie Firestein, an assistant professor in Rutgers' department of cell biology and neuroscience, implicated a gene called CAPON in schizophrenia. A report of their research is available in the online journal PLoS (Public Library of Science) Medicine.

CAPON had been previously identified as a gene involved in the processes of communication between neurons in the brain. The Rutgers team identified a new variant of the CAPON gene that produces a shorter protein product. Using a sample of post-mortem brains, the researchers found elevated levels of this variant in the brains from individuals with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Brzustowicz and Firestein also offered their conclusions about how CAPON operates in its signaling context, functional evidence supporting the connection between the gene and these psychiatric diseases.

Researchers agree that there are environmental contributors to susceptibility to psychiatric disorders, but based on inheritance patterns of these diseases seen in families, the genetic component appears to be quite strong. The inheritance picture, however, is far from clear. It is not like the simple, one-gene models for eye color or blood type or found in such diseases as muscular dystrophy or cystic fibrosis.

"The diseases we study are polygenic, meaning that many genes are likely to contribute, but how many genes there are and how they interact are unknowns,"
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Contact: Joseph Blumberg
blumberg@ur.rutgers.edu
732-932-7084 x652
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey
6-Oct-2005


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