Immune system gene leads to schizophrenia clue | Science News

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Immune system gene leads to schizophrenia clue

Excessive synapse pruning linked to protein variant

By
12:57pm, January 29, 2016
nerve cells

CUTTING CONNECTIONS  C4 protein (green) is found on human nerve cells growing in a dish (cell bodies shown in blue). The protein may cause people with schizophrenia to lose nerve cell connections, researchers propose. 

From the tangled web of schizophrenia biology, scientists have pulled out one tantalizing thread. Variants of a protein that helps snip connections between nerve cells in the brain may contribute to the disorder, scientists report January 27 in Nature.

“It’s not the answer, but it’s an answer,” says psychiatrist and neuroscientist Henry Nasrallah of Saint Louis University School of Medicine. The findings give scientists a clue that may help unravel more insights into how schizophrenia takes hold of the brain, he says.

The study is the first time scientists have been able to move from genetic studies to a biological insight into schizophrenia risk, says geneticist David Goldstein of Columbia University. “Genetics got us there,” he says. “That’s why this is a big deal.”

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