A report in the open access journal BMC Psychiatry presents a new hypothesis that may explain the causes of the psychiatric disease, schizophrenia. The hypothesis hinges on glia, a special type of cell, which is important for the maintenance of the connections between brain cells. By re-examining previously published research the authors suggest that schizophrenia may be caused by a combination of defective genes, which result in deficiencies of a variety of growth factors in glia, and infection by viruses, which may further weaken the glia. They conclude that this "weakening" of glia may result in the breakdown of connections between different brain cells leading to the development of schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia is a severe disabling psychiatric disease, which affects approximately 1 percent of the population. People with schizophrenia often suffer terrifying symptoms such as hearing internal voices, feelings of extreme paranoia and an inability to distinguish reality from fantasy. It is clear that schizophrenia has a strong genetic component, however analysis of individual genes alone will not give us a full understanding the causes of schizophrenia.
Irving Gottesman, one of the authors of this paper and originator of the now widely accepted polygenic model of schizophrenia explains,
Gordon Fletcher | BioMed Central Limited
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