Researchers discover link between C4 gene and schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a condition with dangerous side effects. For example, the disease triggers disturbances in the areas of perception and thinking. Scientists have long searched for the biological roots of schizophrenia. Their discovery could lead to opportunities in the future to treat or even prevent the disease.
When people suffer from schizophrenia, they are often no longer able to live a normal life. The causes of the disease are still unknown, but American researchers have now attempted a study to identify the biological root of the disease in order to better treat or defeat schizophrenia. The scientists published the results of their investigation in the journal Nature.
Cause of schizophrenia found?
Researchers around the world have been looking for the causes of schizophrenia for a long time. For this purpose, US scientists have now analyzed the genetics of laboratory mice. Brain tissue was taken from the test animals during an autopsy and examined. The results could revolutionize the treatment of the disease, the doctors say. The knowledge gained improves understanding of the disease and offers ways for treatment and prevention, explains Bruce Cuthbert, acting deputy director of the "National Institute of Mental Health". Almost one percent of the general population develops schizophrenia in life. Those affected then hear voices or hallucinate, talk about strange ideas and believe others could read their minds. The causes of the disease have so far been unclear, the scientists explain.
Researchers discover “risk gene”
The latest study results combine the risk of schizophrenia with a normal process that begins in early adulthood. The first symptoms of illness often appear at this age. During this period, the human brain begins to shorten the number of our synapses. The new study suggests that if the process gets out of control and too many synapses are cleared, schizophrenia appears to be connected, says Steven McCarroll of Harvard Medical School. The process is comparable to a gardener who wants to cut back the bushes a bit, but then cuts away too much. The result does not mean that this circumcision alone causes schizophrenia. McCarroll explains that the disease could be promoted by combining it with other factors in our brain. The study started with a genetic test. A previous analysis of human DNA showed more than a hundred sites that affect the risk of schizophrenia. However, detailed biological explanations for these influences are very rare, the researchers explain. However, the new study identifies a kind of "risk gene". The doctors also found evidence to support their connection theory.
Gen C4 increases the risk of schizophrenia by around 30 percent
The study examined the DNA data of 28,799 people with schizophrenia and 35,986 people without a corresponding disease. The researchers discovered that a gene called C4 can increase the risk of schizophrenia in a person by around 30 percent. The gene occurs in different forms. Researchers examined brain tissue and found evidence that the forms that pose the greatest risk for schizophrenia are also the most active forms in the human brain. The scientists also found that the gene plays a key role in circumcision of the synapses. While the study did not directly demonstrate that excessive synapse cropping plays a role in the development of schizophrenia, McCarroll says the idea is conclusive.
Result should be used to develop medication
Previous observations have shown that schizophrenia mostly develops in adolescence. The brains of the affected patients often show unusually few synapses, explains the doctor. If the current results are correct, scientists can start looking for drugs that could intervene, McCarroll said. Such medications could be used, for example, when young people show the first symptoms of developing schizophrenia, but research is years away from such treatment options, the physicians emphasize. (as)