- Scientists at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, MA have discovered a connection between the immune-related gene C4 and schizophrenia—the more C4, the more likely a person is to develop schizophrenia.
- The study was published in Nature and led by molecular biologist Steven McCarroll.
- C4 induces synaptic "pruning" by attaching a molecular tag on synapses, causing their destruction. Over-pruning could lead to schizophrenia, according to the study. However, too little pruning may also have dire consequences.
The implications of this study are manifold, but may not necessarily be easy to use as the basis for therapeutic development. Currently, treatments for schizophrenia focus on symptom alleviation. Developing a drug which moderates synaptic pruning to an appropriate balance will be difficult.
Efforts to modify C4 gene expression via therapeutic intervention would have to be very precise, according to Dr. McCarroll in remarks to Stat, as too much C4 could lead to cognitive dysfunction.
This study gives the research community more information about the genetic profile of individuals with schizophrenia. However, there are at least 108 genes linked to the development of schizophrenia and C4 is merely one of them.
The study involved analysis of the genomes of 64,785 people from 22 countries, with or without schizophrenia.