Scientists find cell types behind schizophrenia

The biology of schizophrenia is difficult to study, since hundreds of genes are implicated in the disease. But now, scientists have identified the few cell types behind the disease.
redhaired woman with schizophrenia

Scientists come one step closer to finding the cause of schizophrenia.

The international team — led by researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — say that the work should make it easier to design experiments that lead to new, improved treatments.

An account of the collaborative effort can be found in a scientific paper that was published recently in the journal Nature Genetics.

“With the results from this study,” says co-senior study author Jens Hjerling-Leffler, an assistant professor and research group leader in the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics at Karolinska Institutet, “we are giving the scientific community a chance to focus their efforts where it will give maximum effect.”

Schizophrenia is a severe and disabling long-term mental illness that affects more than 21 millionindividuals worldwide.

The disease impairs behavior and human attributes that many unaffected people might take for granted, such as perception, thinking, language, emotions, and having a “sense of self.”

Common symptoms include: hallucinations, in which voices are heard and “things are seen” that others say are not there; and delusions, or holding onto beliefs that are false.

Medical treatment and psychological support can be effective, but even with this help, managing one’s way in the world with such a disabling burden can make it very hard to gain qualifications, hold down a job, and lead a productive life.

New tools ‘transforming’ biological research

Schizophrenia’s causes are proving hard to pin down. Scientists believe that several factors may be involved, including interactions between genes and environment, such as problems during birth and exposure to viruses.

Significant progress has been made in identifying the genetic factors, if we take into consideration the hundreds of genes that studies have now linked to schizophrenia.

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