A Window Into The Schizophrenic Brain

Using stem cells in a dish, scientists have shown that the brain cells of schizophrenic patients is 90 percent less responsive to activity.

AsianScientist (Oct. 20, 2016) – An international team of scientists has recreated human brain systems in the laboratory, allowing them to pinpoint the different responses to brain activity between patients with schizophrenia and unaffected people. The research was published in JAMA Psychiatry.

The scientists, co-led by the head of QIMR Berghofer’s Neurogenomics Laboratory, Dr. Guy Barry, activated the cells to mimic the stimulation that happens in a real brain. Barry said the team took skin cells from patients with schizophrenia and reprogrammed them into stem cells. They then used next-generation gene sequencing to investigate how the brain cells from the two groups of people responded.

The researchers found that there was 90 percent less response to activity in the brain cells of people with schizophrenia than in brain cells of those without the disorder. This study is the first time that researchers have investigated in a petri dish the different responses to brain activity between patients with schizophrenia and unaffected people.

“What this shows is that in people who don’t have schizophrenia, the brain cells have a properly functioning communication pathway, allowing the transfer of information,” Barry noted. “In people with schizophrenia, the information stops somewhere along the communication pathway. In other words, the brain signals simply don’t get through.”

Now that the team has created an experimental model that showed dramatically different changes between control and schizophrenia neurons, the researchers could use this model to test potential new treatments, according to Barry.

“Because this experimental model accurately recreates and mimics the human brain, it is likely to allow us to better test potential new drugs,” Barry said. “It will also allow us to understand more about the biology of this debilitating psychiatric illness.”

The article can be found at: Roussos et al. (2016) Activity-Dependent Changes in Gene Expression in Schizophrenia Human-Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Neurons.


Source: QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute; Photo: Pixabay.
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