NIPM faculty use genetics to identify why Schizophrenics smoke

May. 27, 2016


Drs. Jingchun Chen and Xiangning Chen of the UNLV Nevada Institute of Personalized Medicine, along with peers at other institutions, recently published their research findings in the article “Genetic Relationship Between Schizophrenia and Nicotine Dependence”  in Nature Publishing Group’s Scientific Reports. Supported in part by separate National Institutes of Health grants to study the well-observed behavior of heavy smoking among schizophrenic patients, Drs. Jingchun Chen and Xiangning Chen studied the genes associated with schizophrenia as well as the genes associated with nicotine dependence to find out if, and how, the mental disorder and the dependence might be linked. The doctors discovered that while schizophrenia was associated with smoking—in other words, the two share genetic liability—the cause of schizophrenic patients’ excessive smoking is not due to nicotine dependence or addiction, as is the case with smokers in the general population. Instead, they found that the most dominant hypothesis in their field related to this behavior held true: Schizophrenic patients use cigarettes to self-medicate and help them cope and overcome some of the symptoms caused by the disorder, as one effect of nicotine on humans is to improve cognitive function.