Sunday, June 19, 2011

Interesting Article On Schizophrenia & Stem Cells

A reader pointed me to a recent article that was quite fascinating: Kristen J. Brennand, Anthony Simone, Jessica Jou, et al., "Modeling schizophrenia using human induced pluripotent stem cells," Nature, May 12, 2011, 473:221-7.  What they did was to take human stem cells, program them using fibroblasts from schizophrenic patients, and differentiated them into neurons.  What they were able to do was create neurons that had similar neural connectivity to neurons from schizophrenics.  Then, they administered various antipsychotic medicines used for schizophrenics today to these developing neurons, and measured the effects on the neural connectivity of these cells--and in at least one case, loxapine, it improved neuronal connectivity. 

The possibility of measuring benefits of such drugs outside a human body, without the complexities that individual volitional differences bring, and without the ethical dilemmas involving human testing, should be obvious.  The other aspect of this paper that is attractive is that it once and for all seems to demolish the "cold mother causes schizophrenia" claim that Freudians use to make, since there is cold mother involved with these grown neurons.  It also gives some potential directions to go towards resolving the question of how much of a role genetics, and how much of a role infection plays in the development of schizophrenia.

This may seem implausible, but I mentioned this article over dinner this evening with my wife, son, and his girlfriend--and my son's girlfriend had not only read the article, but read it carefully enough to notice details that I had missed.  The abstract of this article here should give you an idea what kind of an article this is. 

Old Chicago Pizza: I'm glad that my son works there.  The employee discount makes a very fine pizza into an exceptionally fine pizza.

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