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Gene discovery could aid schizophrenia treatment
December 2, 2004

Australian scientists say the discovery of a new gene could significantly improve the treatment of patients with schizophrenia.

Doctors have found a gene which makes patients more susceptible to the side-effects of medication.

Many patients do not like to take the anti-psychotic drugs prescribed for schizophrenia because of severe side-effects, including depression, sexual problems and osteoporosis.

"It is a fundamentally important [discovery] because the way we've used medications until now has been trial and error," Professor Ross Young from Queensland University of Technology said.

Professor Young and Professor Bruce Lawford from the Royal Brisbane Hospital found patients with the gene had nearly twice the level of a particular hormone when taking their medications.

Doctors say discovering the gene means they will be able to do a blood test or DNA swab and predict who will do better on certain medications.

"By screening for genetic markers we can give lower doses of medication or give ones that have less side effects," Professor Young said.

Mental health groups say it is a major step forward.

"We're very excited about this, any test which could identify side effects could take a lot of the trauma out of the process of finding the right medication," Barbara Hocking, from SANE Australia, says.

They say it may help patients to keep taking their pills and improve their quality of life.

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