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Psych Congress NetworkPlacenta Plays Role in Schizophrenia Risk

New Study Identifies More Than 100 Genes in the Placenta That Contribute to Schizophrenia Risk

The placenta, often overlooked in schizophrenia research, is emerging as a significant player in understanding the disorder. A recent study published in Nature Communications has identified more than 100 genes in the placenta that are linked to the risk of developing schizophrenia, shedding new light on potential avenues for prevention and treatment.

HCN Medical Memo
This study underscores the importance of a holistic approach to understanding and treating schizophrenia. Although the focus has traditionally been on brain development and function, the placenta’s role cannot be ignored. This new research opens up potential avenues for early intervention and even prevention, particularly in cases where there are known environmental risk factors like COVID-19 during pregnancy.

Key Points
  • Researchers identified more than 100 genes that contribute to schizophrenia risk through their impact on the placenta, specifically in trophoblast cells responsible for maternal-fetal nutrient exchange.
  • The study suggests that these genes are expressed at lower levels in the placenta, affecting its ability to nurture the developing fetus and potentially contributing to schizophrenia.
  • A small sample of placentas from mothers who contracted COVID-19 during pregnancy showed activation of schizophrenia risk genes, indicating COVID-19 may be an environmental risk factor.
  • The study also found genes in the placenta that are linked to other disorders like diabetes, bipolar disorder, depression, autism, and ADHD, but the genetic associations with schizophrenia were notably higher.
  • Researchers emphasized that, although the brain is important in understanding schizophrenia, neglecting the placenta may miss key opportunities for prevention.

“In conclusion, our findings, while not detracting from the importance of gene expression in brain for schizophrenia risk, reveal a larger picture that includes placenta: both placenta and brain might contribute to early and reversible trajectories of risk for the disorder.”
– The Researchers

Additional Point

  • The research team is continuing to examine placentas affected by COVID-19 to better understand its potential relationship with schizophrenia development.

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