Scientists have identified some molecules that are responsible for brain cells that reproduce more rapidly in schizophrenic patients by examining cultured neural stem cells derived from the nose of healthy and schizophrenic individuals, according to a new study.
Study author Dr. Alan Mackay-Sim from the National Centre for Adult Stem Cell Research in Brisbane, Australia said in a statement on Wednesday that the findings clearly indicate that the natural cell cycle’s regulatory mechanism is physiologically impaired in patients diagnosed with schizophrenia. The study is published by Elsevier in the journal Biological Psychiatry.
“Our observations indicate that schizophrenia is associated with subtle alterations in cell cycle dynamics, shortening of the cell cycle period, and increased expression of G1/S phase cyclins. We speculate that this underlying diathesis could alter the temporal and spatial cascade of brain development and contribute to an altered neurodevelopmental trajectory in schizophrenia,” researchers wrote in the study.
Mackay-Sim noted that scientists are already aware of many developmental abnormalities in the “schizophrenia brain,” but the discovery was the “first insight into real differences in patient cells that could lead to slightly altered brain development.”
"The current findings are particularly interesting because when we look closely at the clues to the neurobiology of psychiatric disorders, we find new and often unexpected mechanisms implicated," Dr. John Krystal, editor of Biological Psychiatry, in a statement about the study.
Studying the Brain through the Nose
It may seem strange that scientists are increasingly turning to the nose to understand psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia, but it makes sense the olfactory mucosa, located in the upper region of the nasal cavity, is the sense organ of smell in the nose and it is able to continually regenerate new sensory neurons from “adult” stem cells.
Researchers explained that because these cells are one of the very few nerve cells outside of the skull that connects directly to neural cells in the brain, they can be collected from patients with mental illnesses like schizophrenia to be cultured for study.
Experts said that a significant obstacle for the progress of understanding psychiatric disorders is the difficulty of obtaining living brain tissue for research so that the disease processes can be studied directly, but by performing biopsies, which take small pieces of the olfactory tissue from the nose, researchers have succeeded in gaining access to these cultured neural stem cells, which were once so hard to attain.