Mutated Genes May Lead to Mental Illness
(Ivanhoe Newswire) – Scientists at the University of California in San Francisco have discovered that gene mutations that cause cell signaling networks to go awry during embryonic development not only lead to major birth defects, but may also cause subtle disruptions in the brain that contribute to psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, autism, and bipolar disorder.
In a new study researchers have discovered that mice with mutations in a gene called Dact1 are born with a range of severe malformations, including some reminiscent of spina bifida in humans. Researchers used a genetic technique in mice to selectively delete the Dact1 protein only in interneurons -- poor function of interneurons has been implicated in a range of psychiatric conditions.
When the research team examined these genetically altered interneurons in adult mice, they found that the cells appeared relatively normal and had managed to find their proper position in the brain's circuitry during development. But the cells had significantly fewer synapses, the sites where communication with neighboring neurons takes place.
For more information go to: http://www.ucsf.edu/news/2013/06/107006/genes-involved-birth-defects-may-also-lead-mental-illness
SOURCE: PLOS ONE, June 2013
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