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New discovery in Schizophrenia Risk Gene


New discovery in Schizophrenia Risk Gene

After testing both humans and mice, scientists have discovered a gene called C4 which increases the risk of schizophrenia.  C4 seems to diminish neurons in the brain.  This “synaptic pruning” usually occurs in the teen years, and that is why people are usually diagnosed with schizophrenia then.  The research suggests that an increase in neural connections could cause schizophrenia to develop.  Beth Stevens, an assistant professor of neurology at Boston Children’s Hospital said “We’re far from having a treatment based on this, but it’s exciting to think that one day, we might be able to turn down the pruning process in some individuals and decrease their risk” of developing the condition.”

In the past scientists have established that the main genetic risk for people developing schizophrenia, is in the chromosome 6 area of the brain.  Now in this current research the scientists looked at how complement component 4 (or C4), could also influence the risk of the disease.  In previous studies researchers have observed that abnormal brain structures may also contribute towards the illness.  Many schizophrenics have enlarged brain ventricles and low activity in the frontal lobe area of the brain.  This part of the brain is responsible for planning, reasoning, and decision-making.

Eric Lander, director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard said “For the first time, the origin of schizophrenia is no longer a complete black box”.  “While it’s still early days, we’ve seen the power of understanding the biological mechanism of disease in other settings.  Early discoveries about the biological mechanisms of cancer have led to many new treatments and hundreds of additional drug candidates in development.  Understanding schizophrenia will similarly accelerate progress against this devastating disease that strikes young people.”

In the experiment, scientists observed that the higher the levels of C4 that were found in the mice, the more synapses had been pruned during brain maturity.  Previous research has indicated that schizophrenics have less synapses in some areas of the brain than healthy individuals.  Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that affects the way a person behaves, thinks, and sees the world. People with schizophrenia often have an altered perception of reality. They may see or hear things that don’t exist, speak in strange or confusing ways, believe that others are trying to harm them, or feel like they’re being constantly watched. This can make it difficult to negotiate the activities of daily life, and people with schizophrenia may withdraw from the outside world or act out in confusion and fear.  In movies schizophrenics are portrayed as being dangerous individuals, when in reality this is only the case for a minority of people. There is also a misconception that schizophrenics have a ‘split personality’.  This is inaccurate, it is the patients sense of reality that has ‘split’.


Early warning signs of schizophrenia

Social isolation

Hostility or suspiciousness

Deterioration of personal hygiene

Flat, expressionless gaze



Poor personal hygiene

Inappropriate laughter or crying


Alcohol and drug abuse

Oversleeping or insomnia

Odd or irrational statements

Forgetful; unable to concentrate

Extreme reaction to criticism

Strange use of words or way of speaking


Disorganised speech

The psychiatrist will take the person’s medical history. He may give the patient a medical exam, and perform routine tests in order to diagnose the illness. The psychiatrist may also perform brain imaging scans, to see if the patient has the brain abnormalities that are usually associated with schizophrenia.


There are file types of symptoms characteristic of schizophrenia:

Delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, disorganized behaviour, and negative symptoms, (apathy, flat expression and uncommunicative.)

Although schizophrenia is a serious mental illness, thanks to scientific research, there are medications which can help to manage the symptoms of the disorder. This can greatly enhance the person’s quality of life.

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