An important clue about pregnancy and the development of schizophrenia has been discovered

The exact causes of schizophrenia are a real mystery, and scientists have recently been trying to determine if it could develop during pregnancy. Now, a new study suggests that the placenta, which may seemingly be a key component, needs to be further analyzed to understand how this disease is formed.

Scientists have long speculated that schizophrenia is a neurodevelopmental disorder caused during pregnancy or shortly after birth. However, the origin of the disease has never been clearly determined. Some studies suggest that the disorder could be genetic, up to 80%. Others have found that early-life complications can double the risk of schizophrenia, causing a kind of “nature versus culture” debate.

The new research reveals that in some complicated pregnancies, for example during which a woman develops a virus, certain genes related to schizophrenia are activated in the placenta of the mother, affecting her health and indirectly modifying the early development of the brain. fetus.” For the first time, we found an explanation that correlates with early complications, genetic risk and their impact on mental illness, and everything converges towards the placenta,” said neurobiologist Daniel Weinberger of the Lieber Institute. for brain development (LIBD).

Using genetic testing and obstetric information from a diverse group of nearly 3,700 adults, including 2,038 with schizophrenia, the researchers found a significant interaction between nature and dietary factors in the placenta.

The results suggest that a combination of high genetic risk and serious complications of pregnancy can multiply by five the probability of developing schizophrenia, compared to those who have a high genetic risk.

To find out more, the researchers looked at many samples of placental tissue, making sure to analyze those from complicated pregnancies (such as dangerously high maternal blood pressure, premature birth, or emergency caesarean section). The results of the researchers were simply striking: in placentas from complicated pregnancies, genes related to schizophrenia were indeed “activated”. Moreover, the more these genes were activated, the more the placenta showed signs of distress, such as inflammation.

In addition, the study found that in placentas of male offspring, activated genes were much more abundant, suggesting that the sex of the child also plays a role.

” The surprising results of this study make the placenta the centerpiece of a new area of ​​biological research, related to how genes and the environment interact to alter the trajectory of human brain development, ” said Weinberger.

This is a “new field of study” because although the placenta is a crucial organ during pregnancy, it is also one of the most neglected by scientists. Indeed, the placenta is the only organ taken from the body that is not systematically examined. This new study, which revealed that a third of the genes associated with schizophrenia are expressed in the placenta, just shows how much this has been overlooked.

And while the experts still do not know exactly what the roles of these genes are in the placenta, they may be involved in the influence of other neurodevelopmental disorders, such as ADHD (Deficit Disorder). attention with or hyperactivity sanas), Gilles de La Tourette’s disease and autism. ” The placenta is the missing link between maternal risk factors that complicate pregnancy and fetal brain development, as well as developmental disorders ,” said Weinberger.

If the results of the research are confirmed, it may well allow scientists to better predict who would be most likely to develop the disease, or similar disorders.

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