New Study Finds the Placenta, Not Only the Brain, Plays a Central Role in Genetic Risk of Schizophrenia; Future Prevention Strategies Could Target Treatment of Placenta

More than 100 genes linked to the risk of schizophrenia seem to cause illness because of their role in the placenta rather than in the developing brain, according to a new study led by the researchers at the Lieber Institute for Brain Development. Scientists had generally assumed for over a century that genes for schizophrenia risk were principally, if not exclusively, about the brain. But the latest research, published on May 15, 2023 in Nature Communications, found that the placenta plays a much more significant role in developing illness than previously known. The open-access article is titled “Prioritization of Potential Causative Genes for Schizophrenia in Placenta.” “The secret of the genetics of schizophrenia has been hiding in plain sight—the placenta, the critical organ in supporting prenatal development, launches the developmental trajectory of risk,” says Daniel Weinberger, MD, senior author of the paper and Director and CEO of the Lieber Institute for Brain Development, located on the Johns Hopkins medical campus in Baltimore. “The commonly shared view on the causes of schizophrenia is that genetic and environmental risk factors play a role directly and only in the brain, but these latest results show that placenta health is also critical.”
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