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University of Iowa News Release


July 1, 2009

Schizophrenia research at UI receives $1.6 million NIH grant

University of Iowa research that aims to help improve treatments for schizophrenia has been funded by a two-year, $1.6 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, part of the National Institutes of Health. The grant is effective July 1.

The study focuses on the genetic basis of schizophrenia, which affects 1 percent of the world's population and likely accounts for most long-term disability in the United States.

"Our research focuses on identifying genetic abnormalities called copy number variations. This information eventually could help us determine which patients with schizophrenia would respond best to particular medications," said Tom Wassink, M.D., the study's principal investigator and associate professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the UI Carver College of Medicine and UI Children's Hospital. "Currently, some patients respond well to certain drug therapies, while others do not."

The study builds on 20 years of data gathered by leading schizophrenia expert Nancy Andreasen, UI professor of psychiatry, who is the study's co-principal investigator. Andreasen also holds the Andrew H. Woods Chair of Psychiatry.

"Dr. Andreasen has been instrumental in following the disease progression and treatment of hundreds of patients, as well as health information on control subjects and patients' parents," Wassink said. "Advances in technology allow us to study genetic variations at a detailed level previously not possible."

The team will analyze 1,100 samples at the UI, including nearly 250 parental samples and 300 control samples. In addition, the team will have access to samples at the University of Mexico.

People who develop schizophrenia usually become ill in their late teens or early 20s, and many require supported living. The disease has always been thought of as a spectrum disorder, Wassink said.

"Schizophrenia involves core problems, but there is a high degree of variability in what the disease can look like. Some individuals have delusions and hallucinations, but in others there are what we call 'negative symptoms' such as muted emotions and lack of motivation," Wassink said.

"It would be great if this research can lead to improved treatment," he added.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Care Media Relations, 200 Hawkins Drive, Room E110 GH, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1009

MEDIA CONTACT: Becky Soglin, 319-356-7127,