Brain News – A study finds that gene-conditioned disruption in specific brain cells of a person puts him/her at higher risk of psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia. The researchers claim that this study is unique in its contribution towards understanding the genetic causes of mental disorders and devising innovative therapeutic interventions.
A study, conducted at Cardiff University, reveals how genetic disruption of specific cell processes in the brain plays an etiological role in a wide range of psychiatric disorders and cognitive functioning.
The study examined the distinct gene expression programs expressed during early excitatory cortical-neurogenesis in vitro and in the human fetal cortex. The researchers identified several sets of distinctly functional genes that are switched on in both areas of the brain during neurogenesis. In the vitro experiments, when the activation of these sets is disrupted, the shape, movement and electrical activity of developing brain cells is altered. These changes have been linked to the ability of the brain cells to disease and put persons at-risk of psychiatric disorders such as schizoaffective disorders.
The findings, published in Nature Communications, reveals that disorders linked to disruption of these gene-sets include both early onset conditions (developmental delay, autism, ADHD) and later onset conditions (bipolar spectrum disorders, depressive disorders). Further research is being done into development of brain cells to determine which genetic variants get initially switched on and remain active till later. The researchers are also looking into how these early developmental gene sets contribute to mature brain function and genetic-susceptibility to psychiatric disorders.
The study is said to be the first of its kind in surveying complex biological processes that affect genetic risk-factors in psychiatric disorders. Hence, it has the potential to enhance the understanding of the root causes of genetic psychiatric disorders. In fact, Dr Eunju J. Shin, of the duo Pocklington and Shin leading the study, said, “The knowledge gained through this approach may ultimately help guide the development of novel therapies or help explain why some individuals respond to some treatments but not others.”
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Sanders, B., D’Andrea, D., Collins, M. O., Rees, E., Steward, T., Zhu, Y., Chapman, G., Legge, S. E., Pardiñas, A. F., Harwood, A. J., Gray, W. P., O’Donovan, M. C., Owen, M. J., Errington, A. C., Blake, D. J., Whitcomb, D. J., Pocklington, A. J., & Shin, E. (2022). Transcriptional programs regulating neuronal differentiation are disrupted in DLG2 knockout human embryonic stem cells and enriched for schizophrenia and related disorders risk variants. Nature communications, 13(1), 27. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-27601-0