Schizophrenia decoded! Gene C4 found to be the main culprit in causing psychotic behavior
After years of research and speculation, Schizophrenia has been decoded. The dreaded disease has finally been linked to a gene responsible for synaptic pruning. The recently disclosed Landmark study revealed strategic results which till date have never been known before.
The successful research on the causes of schizophrenia was achieved through a mammoth analysis of findings using genetic data acquired form almost 100,000 people. The research published in ‘Nature’ magazine on January 27th was undertaken by a joint effort between scientists from the Boston Children’s Hospital and the broad institutes Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research, a branch of the Harvard Medical School. The main researchers involved were neuroscientists Steven McCarrol, Ph.D, Beth Stevens Ph.D, Michael Carroll Ph.D and Aswin Shekar, a 4th year Ph.D student at Harvard Medical School.
1 What is synaptic pruning?
Synaptic pruning is the process by which the axons of nerve cells or neurons are constantly pruned for elimination. Pruning of axons are predominant from childhood where unwanted axons are constantly eliminated paving the way for improved brain function. Just as you need to cut your hair or your nails, so it is with the physiology of your body which eliminates useless material. However sometimes, the pruning process can go awry and excess pruning has an opposite effect impairing cognitive function. Synaptic pruning continues from infancy till puberty.
2 Schizophrenia has never been decoded since its discovery 130 years ago
Till recent times, schizophrenia has periodically posed a problem for medical science as the scientists have been trying to decipher the reasons of its development. As a disease whose conditions were first observed 130 years ago, it has had devastating results. As a major and scary psychiatric disorder, schizophrenic symptoms were typically marked by spilt personality, hallucinations, altered speech patterns and severe degeneration of the brain. The condition always reared itself in youngsters from their teens to young adulthood. Decoding schizophrenia till date had never achieved success. However with the decoding of the schizophrenic black box, researchers are finally getting a clearer picture as to why the disease features a typical onset during childhood.
3 The Main Culprit, the Gene – 4(C4)
The main element involved in the discovery is a gene called ‘complement component 4 or (C4). Responsible for synaptic pruning, the gene also plays a major role in the immunity system. The study has revealed C4’s extended role in schizophrenic risk through a variety of structural variations. C4 now proves through irrefutable evidence to be one of the genetic risks of schizophrenia, which was presumed at 90% of cases but was not proved.
4 Path-breaking Road to Success
The epic discovery resulted from a DNA collected from 100,000 people worldwide. 65000 human genomes were studied and analyzed according to their respective behavioral patterns. Examples from brain post mortems and animal studies were also incorporated into the research.
The remarkable breakthrough came from the variable expressions of C4.Using molecular genetics which breaks down molecular patterns to gain insight into genetic mutations and variations, researchers zeroed in on C4, the main suspect. C4 not only proved to be runaway gene with the potential for variable behavior in synaptic pruning, it displayed structured versions that influenced two different forms of the gene in the brain called C4 and C4A.
Each time a version was discovered as an expression of C4A, it was found associated with schizophrenia. Moreover, each time a version of C4A appeared, it triggered responses in C4 which extended the risk of the disease.
5 Schizophrenia can now be arrested if not prevented
This amazing breakthrough is a milestone in the medical battle against schizophrenia. With identification of C4’s crazy tactics involved in synaptic pruning, scientists can now study the role of the gene in its entirety and its process of synaptic pruning. Strategic data received from the studies will also include genetic possibilities of the genes variable behavior.
Continued research will soon yield future medication that suppresses C4’s excessive behavior of synaptic pruning. This provides new hope for schizophrenic patients. The disease will be nipped in the bud and not allowed to degenerate into extreme psychotic conditions associated with advanced schizophrenia.