New study leads scientists closer to understanding schizophrenia

A new study is helping scientists move closer to understanding the biological cause of schizophrenia, as well as explaining the manifestation of the psychological disorder during adolescence or childhood, Tech Times reports.

The study was published in the journal Nature.

The study was conducted by experts from Boston Children's Hospital, the Broad Institute and Harvard Medical School.

Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder that affects more than 2 million people in the United States.

According to the Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America (SARDAA), only half of the people diagnosed with schizophrenia receive treatment.

For the study, the research team studied the steps by which genes increase a person's risk of developing schizophrenia. The risk of schizophrenia is linked to brain pruning, a natural process that involves the reorganization of brain cell networks.

Brain pruning involves the process of weeding out weak neural connections and the process occurs in the prefrontal cortex. Pruning usually occurs during childhood and puberty.

Pruning helps sculpt the adolescent brain into its adult form.

The researchers said that people whose genes intensify or accelerate pruning are at greater risk of developing schizophrenia than those who do not.

Some experts suspect that pruning must somehow get disrupted in people with schizophrenia.

The new study strongly supports this theory as it suggests that people with schizophrenia contain a gene variant that facilitates "tagging" of neural connections for pruning, thereby accelerating the process.

According to NY Times, the team analyzed the genomes of more than 64,000 people and found that people with schizophrenia were more likely to have the overactive forms of a gene called C4-A.

"C4-A seemed to be the gene driving risk for schizophrenia," Dr. McCarroll said, "but we had to be sure."

"This work is extremely persuasive but any step forward is not only rare and unusual, it's just one step in a journey of a thousand miles," said Dr. Samuel Barondes, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco.

Jan 28, 2016 By Rashmi Kalia, UniversityHerald Reporter


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