Inflammation is part of the immune system and is responsible for defending humans against infection as well as fascilitating the healing of injuries, and is therefore vital for our survival. Research has demonstrated that inflammatory processes also have other roles to play as inflammatory substances produced by the body influence mechanisms in the brain involving learning and memory.
Inflammatory substances produced in moderate quantities in the brain can be beneficial during the formation of new brain cells, for example. However, an increase in the levels of these substances as is the case during illness, can result in damage to the brain.
“Previous studies have shown that individuals suffering from various mental illnesses have an increased peripheral inflammation, but the reason behind this increase is not known,” says Petra Suchankova Karlsson, who wrote the thesis. “It has been suggested that the stress that goes with mental illness activates the body’s immune system, but it is also possible that inflammation in the body affects the brain, which in turn results in mental illness.”
Previous studies have focused on how environmental and psychological factors affect the immune system’s impact on the brain. Suchankova’s thesis presents, for the first time, results that suggest that several different genes linked to the immune system are associated with healthy people’s personality traits. It also demonstrates that some of these genes are associated with an increased risk of developing schizophrenia or suicidal behaviour.
“One of the things we studied was a gene variant that increases impulsiveness in people who carry it,” says Suchankova. “We already knew that the risk of attempting suicide is higher in impulsive people and therefore analysed this gene variant in a group of patients who had attempted to take their life. We found that these patients more often carried the particular gene variant when compared to the general population which meant that this variant was not only associated with increased impulsiveness in healthy individuals but also with increased risk of suicidal behaviour.”
The change in the levels of inflammatory substances in the blood of patients suffering from a mental illness as previously noted may have been caused by inflammation-related genes affecting the risk of mental illness, rather than the illness itself leading to a change in levels, as is traditionally believed.
“It could well be that some variants of the genes play a role in the development of mental illness by controlling how the brain is formed, perhaps during the embryonic stage, or by affecting the transfer of signal substances,” says Suchankova.
The results of this thesis support the proposed role of the immune system in mental illness, and could be used as a basis for further studies that, it is hoped, will lead to the development of new treatment methods.
The thesis has been successfully defended.For more information, please contact:
Helena Aaberg | idw
More genes are active in high-performance maize
19.01.2018 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
How plants see light
19.01.2018 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.
We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.
Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
19.01.2018 | Materials Sciences
19.01.2018 | Health and Medicine
19.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy