Problems with the brain’s “helper cells” may contribute to schizophrenia, a new study in mice suggests.
The study focused on glial cells , which provide support for the neurons that do the “signaling” within the brain. For instance, glial cells help organize the connections among neurons and produce myelin, which acts as insulation around the brain’s nerve fibers.
To see if glial cells contribute to schizophrenia , the researchers first took samples of skin cells from people who developed schizophrenia in childhood, before age 13.
Then, the scientists used a technique to reprogram these skin cells to make them into cells called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), which have the potential to become any cell type in the body. The researchers then manipulated the iPSCs so they turned into glial progenitor cells, or the cells in the body that give rise to glial cells.
The researchers transplanted the glial progenitor cells into the brains of young mice. This resulted in “chimeric” mice, meaning they had regular mouse neurons but human glial progenitor cells.
The study showed that the glial cells from the people with schizophrenia were highly dysfunctional; for example, the cells did not give rise to enough myelin-producing cells, so transmission between neurons was impaired, the researchers said. In addition, a type of glial cells called astrocytes did not mature properly and weren’t able to fully support the…