Monday, June 13, 2011

A Must Read Article

Douglas Fox, "The Insanity Virus," Discover, June, 2010.  I do not know how I missed this.  It tells about recent discoveries that tie a number of interesting problems together:

1. Why are schizophrenics disproportionately born in winter and early spring?

2. Why are the mutations associated with schizophrenia largely in the major histocompatibility complex region on chromosome 6?

3. If the disease is genetic, why do about half of identical twins get it, and the other half do not?

4. There is a clear connection to brain structure, with schizophrenic brains showing less tissue present on CAT scans than normal brains.

5. While not mentioned in the article, there seems to have been an eightfold increase in schizophrenia rates over the last three centuries in the Western world.

The article makes the case that an endogenous retrovirus (a viral DNA sequence that has inserted itself into human DNA, long, long ago) causes schizophrenia, and that particular illnesses, such as toxoplasmosis (associated with cat feces) or influenza, at birth can start this monster going, and the apparently somewhat related problems of multiple sclerosis (long suspected of having a viral component) and bipolar disorder.

This is a big deal.  Perhaps we can't do anything about the genes that put some people at risk of developing schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.  But perhaps we can identify what activates this retrovirus.  Obviously, this gets mentioned in the book.

Also: see this book on the subject.

UPDATE: I was going to go to sleep, but this has me too excited to sleep!  Back to editing the book!

1 comment:

w said...

Back in the 1990's there was an expert in Schizophrenia that spoke out at BSU that postulated there was a viral connection to the illness and he was working on investigating that. Can't remember his name. If I ever come across it I'll send you it to you.

-walt