Groundwork For Schizophrenia May Take Place In The Womb


People who develop schizophrenia later life might be born with brains of a different structure, according to a new study by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Researchers believe that the foundations of schizophrenia could begin in the womb, adding additional support to the claim that genetics and the disease are highly intertwined. They believe that schizophrenia is roughly 80 percent heritable

“Even before your child is born the genetics have already started to do their work,” said Kristen Brennand, lead author of the study.

Probing the foundations of schizophrenia

Uncovering the biology of schizophrenia tends to be challenging because attaining brain tissue samples from those with the condition is rare. To work around this, researchers examined skin cells from patients with the disease.

The researchers discovered that patients with schizophrenia had lower levels of the signalling molecule miR-9 than people without the disease. miR-9 is believed to alter the activity of particular genes and plays a role in how neurons evolve in the fetus.

During the experiment, Dr. Brennand and her team observed that miR-9 could influence how neurons travel. After forming alongside the fetal brain’s central cavities, the cells typically migrate to the brain’s outer layers. However, “schizophrenic” nerve cells were unable to migrate as far as the cells in people without the disease.

This new discovery proposes that fetuses experiencing these types of genetic alterations could be at an increased risk of developing schizophrenia in their teens or twenties.

“People with a severe burden of genetic variants could develop schizophrenia in the absence of any environmental factors; people with a less severe burden, on the other hand, could potentially stay healthy unless exposed to environmental factors such as traumatic life events,” said research team member Mads Engel Hauberg.

Source: New Scientist