Tuesday, February 2, 2016
C4 Tampers with Schizophrenia
A breakthrough with schizophrenia research provides a theory as to how this gene causes a mental illness. Through studies with humans and mice, a new schizophrenia risk gene called “C4” tampers with relations between neurons. This junction between two nerve cells is known as “synaptic pruning” and normally occurs during teenage development. With extreme pruning taking place, the development of schizophrenia is at high risk. Because this is the first link between genes and schizophrenia, researchers are far from results, but remain confident in their findings.
Although researchers knew DNA’s 6th chromosome was the main center for risk of schizophrenia, they began focusing on the region known as C4 which is involved with the immune system. Using brain samples from recent autopsy’s, variation of copies and length of C4 allowed researchers to predict how active this gene was in an individual. After observing about sixty five thousand people from twenty two countries (half with schizophrenia, half without) the genome database showed higher levels of C4 activity related to people with a greater risk of schizophrenia. After testing humans, they turned to mice where they also found more nerve cell pruning associated with higher C4 activity during brain development.
Old research has shown that fewer connections between nerves cells occurred in those with schizophrenia while those without showed just the opposite. This new evidence has delivered a new view on schizophrenia research. Unfortunately, studies are preliminary and only look for pruning evidence. The direct processes occurring are not being studied due to lack of information on brain activity. On the contrary, antipsychotic drugs are used in immune system treatments, therefore there is hope that the same drugs will help slow down pruning and offer a treatment for this disease.
Although researchers have come close to a finding a solution to this disease, I believe there is still unanswered questions that influence schizophrenia. Since researchers provided information that studies are focused mainly on pruning evidence and not on brain activity, therefore other possible factors could be acting on this gene. The brain is an intricate and complex network of neurons and issues that all act on one another to function smoothly. It only takes one part of the operation for a function to fail. I do agree that C4 could possibly be a part of the failing operation that leads to schizophrenia, but there could be other factors that are influencing this particular gene to tamper with synaptic pruning. I hope that one day they can find a medication to cure this disease, unfortunately I do not think medication will be produced anytime soon due to the lack of information on brain activity.