“Hooolllly crap, this is so cool!” was what I said to my (accountant) husband after I read this paper. I did an interpretive dance to describe the many cool things in this particular paper, and I know you will too. Today’s image is from a recent paper about understanding the cellular mechanisms that underlie the very complicated mental disorder schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by disorganized thought processes and emotional dysfunction. There is a strong genetic component to the disorder, yet the basic cellular mechanisms that occur in schizophrenic patients is not completely understood. Past studies have looked at post-mortem brains, which have taught biologists a lot about what a schizophrenic’s brain looks like. These studies, however, cannot help pinpoint the specific cells affected by schizophrenia and the molecular mechanisms that lead to the disorder. A recent paper does amazing acrobatics to figure out these unknowns. In this paper, Brennand and colleagues took fibroblasts from schizophrenia patients who have a high likelihood of having a genetic component to their disorder. These fibroblasts were reprogrammed into pluripotent stem cells, and then differentiated into neural progenitor cells and neurons. These neurons had decreased connectivity, diminished numbers of neurites, and altered levels of many key neuronal proteins and signals (glutamate receptors, for example…a biggie for neurons). Images above show the difference in neuronal connectivity in the neurons induced from stem cells in healthy (left) and schizophrenic (right) patients.
Brennand, K., Simone, A., Jou, J., Gelboin-Burkhart, C., Tran, N., Sangar, S., Li, Y., Mu, Y., Chen, G., Yu, D., McCarthy, S., Sebat, J., & Gage, F. (2011). Modelling schizophrenia using human induced pluripotent stem cells Nature, 473 (7346), 221-225 DOI: 10.1038/nature09915
Adapted by permission from Macmillan Publishers Ltd, copyright 2011