NEW insights into the cell types that underlie schizophrenia have been displayed by researchers from the Karolinska Institutet, Solna, Sweden through a combined analysis of human genetics and single cell transcriptomics. The findings could pave the way for new treatments to be developed for this devastating condition.
Whilst previous genetic studies have associated hundreds of genes with schizophrenia onset, there is currently limited understanding of how these genes are linked and the extent to which they contribute to the condition. In this research, however, the team were able to identify the cell types underpinning schizophrenia by combining detailed lists of the genes associated with it with new maps of all the genes used in different cell types in the brain.
Contribution of Certain Cell Types
The analysis revealed that certain cell types are linked to disease development to a far greater extent than others and also outlined the contribution of a number of major cell types, each of which originate in different areas of the brain.
The team believe the discovery could provide the basis for further research that leads to new treatments being developed. “One question now is whether these brain cell types are related to the clinical features of schizophrenia. For example, greater dysfunction in one cell type could make treatment response less likely. Dysfunction in a different cell type could increase the chances of long-term cognitive effects. This would have important implications for development of new treatments, as separate drugs may be required for each cell type involved,” commented co-main author Prof Patrick Sullivan, Karolinska Institutet.
Using this method of combining the separate fields of human genetics and single cell transcriptomics to study disease, only recently a possibility, should help researchers to develop a new understanding of, and treatments for, a number of other complex disorders, including autism and major depression.
“Understanding which cell types are affected in a disease is of critical importance for developing new medicines to improve their treatment. If we do not know what causes a disorder we cannot study how to treat it,” emphasised Dr Nathan Skene, Karolinska Institutet.
James Coker, Reporter
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