The genetic origins of schizophrenia revealed


Artistic visualization of human neurone (Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at


According to the article published on the website, a new study published in the January 27, 2016 issue of Nature revealed that the risk of schizophrenia can be increased if a person inherits particular structural form of gene related to complement component 4 (C4) protein. This protein has been already known for its role in the immune system, however, now it seems to be involved also in so called "synaptic pruning". Synaptic pruning is the process of elimination of connections between neurons and is particularly active during the adolescence, which may explain why the first symptoms of schizophrenia are observed in teenagers and young adults. It may also explain why their brains tend to show fewer connections between neurons. This is the first study where authors try to explain the origin of schizophrenia - a mental disorder often characterized by abnormal social behavior and failure to recognize what is real, affecting clearly more than 20 million people worldwide.

The study was led by researchers from the Broad Institute's Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research, Harvard Medical School in cooperation with Boston Children's Hospital and included the collection of DNA from more than 100,000 people, detailed analysis of more than 65,000 human genomes, development of special analytical strategy, examination of postmortem brain samples from hundreds of people and the use of animal models to show that the C4 protein from the immune system also plays a role in the brain development. Apart of the indisputable cognitive value this research may allow to develop a new therapeutic strategies aimed at schizophrenia?s causes rather than its symptoms.    

Original paper: Nature; DOI:10.1038/nature16549
Image credits: renjith krishnan
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