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URMC / Research / Research@URMC / October 2014 / Brain’s Support Cells May Be Important Player in Schizophrenia

Brain’s Support Cells May Be Important Player in Schizophrenia

astrocyteNew research, backed with $6 million in funding from the NIH, will seek to understand the fundamental mechanisms of schizophrenia. 

The new work focuses on the part that glia cells may play in the disease.  Glia are the support cells found in the brain and have long been overlooked by the scientific community in favor of their more flashy cousins, the neuron. 

However, in recent years scientist have begun to appreciate the essential role that these cells play in not only creating a healthy environment for neurons, but also in integrated and coordinating communication within the brain. 

The new research builds upon work by Steve Goldman, M.D., Ph.D. and Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc. with the UR Center for Translational Neuromedicine.  In a landmark study that appeared last year in the journal Cell Stem Cell, the two showed that human astrocytes may be one of the key evolutionary developments that contribute to the higher cognitive function that separates us from other species.

The new work builds upon these findings and explores the potential link between schizophrenia and glial cells.  It has been observed that individuals with schizophrenia have mutations in genes associated with these cells.

The new research will look at the potential role that astrocytes, the main support cells in the brain, and oligodendrocytes, the source of the myelin, which insulates nerve cells, may play in the disease.

You can read more about the new research here

Mark Michaud | 10/1/2014

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