Not so long ago, if a person suffered from schizophrenia, mental health professionals pinned all the blame on his or her mother. So-called “refrigerator mothers” didn’t have a warm relationship with their children, the theory went, and thus caused their children severe mental distress that expressed itself as schizophrenia.
Needless to say, this theory has been disproved–but even so, researchers have had a difficult time pinpointing exactly what does cause schizophrenia. Both environmental and genetic factors seem to play a role. And now, thanks to recent research out of Johns Hopkins, we have an idea of one genetic mutation which appears to play a role.
Several studies have already identified particular genetic mutations that are more prevalent among schizophrenics; this new Hopkins research goes a step further, in that explains how one of those mutations might result in a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Put simply, people who don’t have this particular gene (from an area on the genome called 15q11.2, if you want to be specific) face difficulties when it comes to growing new neural cells.
“Normally, neural progenitors will form orderly rings when grown in a dish, but those with the deletion didn’t,” said Guo-li Ming, a professor of neurology and neuroscience at Hopkins. Instead, cell layers were formed in a disrupted and chaotic pattern.
This study focused on how this schizophrenia-linked mutation affected brain development; next, the research team hopes to look at whether and how those effects manifest in the adult brain.
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