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Schizophrenia May be Immune, not Brain, Disorder

By Associate News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on June 30, 2012

Schizophrenia May be Immune, not Brain, DisorderChinese scientists have shed more light on the theory that schizophrenia may be associated with a malfunctioning immune system.

Traditionally, schizophrenia’s cause has been considered to be a dysfunctioning brain. However, a growing body of evidence points to the immune system as a major culprit.

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by a broad range of unusual behaviors that cause profound disruption in the lives of people suffering from the condition, as well as in the lives of the people around them. Schizophrenia most often includes hallucinations and/or delusions, which reflect distortions in the perception and interpretation of reality.

Schizophrenia strikes without regard to gender, race, social class or culture. While thought to be one of the more purely biochemically-based disorders, research has yet to identify its biological or genetic origins.

Lin He and Chunling Wan from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and their colleagues, identified over 1300 proteins in the blood and then compared the blood of patients with schizophrenia to the blood of healthy individuals.

Overall, 27 proteins were different in the schizophrenic patients. All of these proteins were involved in the complement system.

The complement system consists of blood proteins that are part of signaling pathways. Each molecule activates the next, ‘complementing’ — or enhancing — the body’s immune response.

There are three main signaling pathways, which are activated in various ways and include different molecules.

The team demonstrated that one of the three, the alternative pathway, is suppressed in patients with schizophrenia.

Yang Li, a member of the team, said that ‘further statistical and bioinformatics analysis indicated that a malfunction of the complement system may be involved in schizophrenia.”

Li is cautious about the work’s impact.

“We can’t determine whether the alteration of complement pathways is a cause or effect of schizophrenia. The role of complement proteins in the development of the central nervous system also needs further exploration. That’s our future research work,” he said.

Source:  Shanghai Jiao Tong University

 

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2012). Schizophrenia May be Immune, not Brain, Disorder. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2012/06/30/schizophrenia-may-be-immune-not-brain-disorder/41033.html