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Function of gene in the first week of birth can reveal schizophrenia

Ever wondered how a particular gene can determine if you’ll grow up to be schizophrenic or not? A new study by scientists from Cardiff University has shown that it is indeed the case.

The function of a gene called “Rosetta Stone” or commonly known as schizophrenic gene can reveal the functions of all the other genes associated with the disease.

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Photo Credit: geralt

This ground breaking study has disclosed a phase during the early stages of a child’s brain development that is weak and can be aimed to reverse schizophrenia in the future.

The research team in an attempt to unravel the earlier unknown effect of a gene in confirming healthy brain development found a gene namely “disrupted in schizophrenia-1 (DISC-1)”. Earlier researches have shown that when mutated, this gene is a high risk element for mental diseases such as schizophrenia, split disorder and severe medical depression.

The research team headed by Kevin Fox, discovered that to facilitate healthy development for the brain’s synapses to occur, the DISC-1 gene first requires to bind with two other molecules called “Lis” and “Nudel”.

Their investigations in mice showed that by ceasing DISC-1 from binding with these molecules with the utilization of a protein-releasing drug called “Tamoxifen” at an early phase of the brain’s development, it would not have plasticity once it matures into its adult phase, thereby stopping cortical neurons in the brain’s largest area from being able to form synapses. As a result, their capability to foster clear thoughts and to nicely observe the world is ruined.

Stopping DISC-1 from binding with “Lis” and “Nudel” molecules had no effect on its plasticity once the brain was fully matured. Nevertheless, the research team was able to point out a seven-day period – one week after birth, when failing to bind with those two molecules had an irrevocable effect on the brain’s plasticity in the later part of life.

Fox said that the “potential” of what they know of DISC-1 gene is “immense,” and their identification of the one week period will guide them “to test whether other schizophrenia risk genes affecting different regions of the brain create their malfunction during their own critical period.”

Jeremy Hall who is also associated with Cardiff University said that the paper offers “strong experimental evidence that subtle changes early on in life can lead to much bigger effects in adulthood.”

Fox stressed that now their challenge is to discover a way by treating people either during the one week time or discovering ways to reverse the issue in adulthood by bringing in plasticity to the brain.

“This, we hope, could one day help to prevent the manifestation or recurrence of schizophrenia symptoms altogether,” he added.

The report said that schizophrenia affects nearly 1 percent of the global population and approximately 635,000 people in the UK will suffer from this condition at some stage of their lives.

The study has been published in the journal “Science”.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), schizophrenia affects over 21 million people across the globe.

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