Volume 96, Issue 12
Wednesday September 18, 2002

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A million for research

By Paolo Zinatelli
Gazette Staff

A researcher at Western has been awarded a $1 million grant to study the genetic causes of schizophrenia.

Shiva Singh, a Western professor in the departments of biology and pediatrics, was awarded the grant in conjunction with Art Petronis, a professor from the University of Toronto.

The Ontario Mental Health Foundation granted the researchers the funding last month, Singh said.

"We were successful in making the case of dealing with schizophrenia," Singh said, adding the research money will come in the form of an unconditional four-year grant. According to Singh, the two researchers have not decided if they will accept the grant in one payment or by installments.

"We would like to develop a gene chip [with the money]," Singh said, explaining a gene chip is a slide that provides multiple re-examinations and readings on the same strand of DNA

Singh said their research will be focusing on chromosome 22, which researchers feel is involved in the development of schizophrenia.

One per cent of the population has schizophrenia, Singh explained, adding he hopes his research will find the gene responsible for the disease.

"This collaboration was developed through our [mutual] interest in genetics," Singh said of Petronis, adding their research will provide them with a detailed examination of the disease.

"[We are] delighted to see research is being conducted in the area of schizophrenia," said Wendy Steinberg, director of communications for the Schizophrenia Society of Canada.

"It is especially exciting and encouraging to learn that a Canadian researcher has been granted this [funding]," Steinberg said.

There are many myths surrounding the disease, she explained, adding the uneducated often see schizophrenia as a weakness in the individual or the result of a dysfunctional family or a traumatic childhood.

"Reducing the stigma could go a long way towards improving early intervention and treatment," Steinberg concluded.

Thirty-six research teams submitted letters to apply for the grant, said OMHF executive director Howard Sappell.

"This was not an ordinary grant. We had a special competition," he explained.


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