A new study from researchers at Hudson Alpha Institute for biotechnology, indicate non-familial genetic mutations may account for about half of schizophrenia cases.

Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe and disabling brain disorder that affects about 1.2 percent of Americans. The total cost of schizophrenia in the U.S. is estimated to be $62.7 billion. Individuals with this disorder may hear voices, believe other people are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts, or planning to due them harm. This causes people with this illness to become withdrawn or become extremely agitated and aggressive.

Schizophrenia have been linked to heredity, although it occurs in 1 percent of the general population it has been found to occur in 10 percent of people who have first degree relatives with the disorder. Other recent findings suggest schizophrenia linked to certain gene that is keys to making important brain chemical malfunctions. The problem affects the development of higher functioning skills.

“This study has emphasized how important personal genome sequencing is in complex diseases such as schizophrenia,” said Shawn Levy, Ph.D., faculty investigator at the Hudson Alpha Institute. “By sequencing major portions of the genome, this study has found that new mutations separate from inherited mutations, may significantly contribute to the occurrence of schizophrenia.”

Researchers are targeting exomes, which are human genome that contains protein-coding genes for cellular processes, for the cause of schizophrenia. When the exomes of sporadic schizophrenia individuals were compared to the exomes of their own parents, about half of the patients were shown to have new mutations in important genes.

Comparison of inherited to new mutations shows that the new mutations are more often damaging to important proteins in the cell, potentially explaining why they lead to schizophrenia.

“The contribution of novel, non-inherited mutations to disease also emphasizes how important genome sequencing will be in diagnosing and treating disease,” said Levy.