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Researchers recruit people for genetic study of schizophrenia

If you're healthy, free of mental illness, and willing to help science unlock the secrets of schizophrenia, consider participating in a genetic study of schizophrenia that is underway at Upstate.

Schizophrenia is one of the most serious of psychiatric disorders, affecting about 1 percent of the population. People with schizophrenia commonly hear voices telling them negative things, and this makes for a difficult existence, says Mantosh Dewan, MD distinguished service professor in the Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences department at Upstate. He says people with schizophrenia more often than not are victims of crimes rather than perpetrators, and he estimates about 10 percent of people with schizophrenia take their own lives.

Dewan and Christopher Morley, as assistant professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, are part of a national study that has been underway for five years. The study is collecting tissue samples from 10,000 people with schizophrenia and 10,000 healthy subjects with no history or family history of mental illness. Morley says the goal is to build a public repository of DNA that scientists can draw from into the future.

Researchers are looking for genetic differences, to help determine which genes contribute to schizophrenia. Dewan says as many as 2,000 genes may be responsible. Identifying the problem genese might lead to development of medications for treatment, or to ways of identifying people at increased risk for developing schizophrenia. "If you can identify who is at increased risk in advance, you can possily help limit the seriousness, or even the course," Morley says.

Morley and Dewan are looking for "healthy controls," people with no medical problems or history or mental illness. Those who qualify to participate will be asked to give three tablespoons of blood and receive a $25 stipend. To find out more, contact nurse Lynn Fredericks at 315-464-6943.

Hear the radio interview with Drs. Dewan and Morley about this study.