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Researchers from the Smurfit Institute of Genetics at Trinity College Dublin and the Department of Psychiatry at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland have identified a genetic factor which contributes to the development of schizophrenia.

In conjunction with scientists at Cardiff University, Stanford University, Stanley Medical Research Institute and Duke University, the Irish team established that there exist abnormal vessels which essentially threaten the structure which delivers blood to the brain – a factor which can give rise to the development of the mental health disorder.

Focussing on a chromosomal abnormality known as 22q11 deletion syndrome, researchers ascertained that changes to these genes can affect the blood brain barrier, and leaves those with the syndrome 20 times more likely to develop schizophrenia.

Dr Matthew Campbell, Assistant Professor in Neurovascular Genetics at Trinity, provided an insight into the significance of the discovery, and the impact it can have on those living with the condition.

"The concept of tailoring drugs to regulate and treat abnormal brain blood vessels is a novel treatment strategy and offers great potential to complement existing treatments of this debilitating disease," he said.

Elaborating on the use of cardiovascular drugs in the treatment of cerebral conditions, he added: "While it is very well accepted that improving cardiovascular health can reduce the risk of stroke and heart attacks, we now believe that drugs aimed at improving cerebrovascular health may be an additional strategy to treating brain diseases in the future."

The findings have been published in the journal of Molecular Psychiatry.

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A new report has found that although over 50 per cent of medical graduates are female, a mere 7 per cent of consultant surgeons are women.

Research by Royal College of Surgeons (RCSI) has found that a lack of information and support during and after pregnancy could prevent women from progressing in the career.

The RCSI is now aiming to improve these support networks in order to encourage more women to consider careers as surgeons.

Dr Avril Hutch Head of the RCSI Equality and Diversity Unit said: "We want to ensure that surgery is an attractive career, that there's mentorship programmes for trainees, that there's adequate support for pregnant trainees, and we also want to ensure that there's opportunities for fellowships."

She added, "When they get to their 30s, it's times when they are considering having families and things like that, and also it's a very competitive process to become a consultant surgeon, and our trainees are well equipped to do that, but we have to make sure that they have the resources to get to that top level."

The RSCI has made a total of 25 recommendations including help for students who are parents, advice on work-life balance and support for training fellowships abroad.

"When they're in medical school, if they don't encounter female surgical academics, it's quite hard for them to envisage a world in which they might be successful as a surgeon," she said.

"And so sometimes they simply opt out of even considering surgery as a career and that's something we need to work on."

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