A new study, to be published in the Feb. 7, 2013 issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics, expands and deepens the biological and genetic links between cardiovascular disease and schizophrenia. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of premature death among schizophrenia patients, who die from heart and blood vessel disorders at a rate double that of persons without the mental disorder.
"These results have important clinical implications, adding to our growing awareness that cardiovascular disease is under-recognized and under-treated in mentally ill individuals," said study first author Ole Andreassen, MD, PhD, an adjunct professor at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and professor of psychiatry at the University of Oslo. "Its presence in schizophrenia is not solely due to lifestyle or medication side effects. Clinicians must recognize that individuals with schizophrenia are at risk for cardiovascular disease independent of these factors."
Led by principal investigator Anders M. Dale, PhD, professor of radiology, neurosciences, psychiatry and cognitive science at UC San Diego School of Medicine, an international team of researchers used a novel statistical model to magnify the analytical powers of genome-wide association studies or GWAS.
These are studies in which differing bits of sequential DNA - called single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs - in persons and groups are compared to find common genetic variants that might be linked to a trait or disease. The researchers boosted the power of GWAS by adding information based on genetic pleiotropy, the concept that at least some genes influence multiple traits or phenotypes.