New Work Reveals Where Schizophrenia May Originate in the Brain; Researchers Studying Protein (SAP97) Strongly Linked to Schizophrenia Are First to Determine the Protein’s Function, Tracing It to Structure in Hippocampus Called the Dentate Gyrus

In the process of solving a decades-long mystery about a particular protein, scientists have identified a specific location in the brain where schizophrenia may originate. Despite the identification of many genes that show some link to schizophrenia, identifying a part of the brain that is likely responsible for the disorder with a high level of certainty has proven to be extremely difficult--until now. Knowing where to look and what to look for could help identify those at risk of schizophrenia before the disorder strikes and might lead to new diagnostic, preventive and treatment measures. Schizophrenia affects approximately 20 million people around the globe. Symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, flat affect (lack of emotional expression), loss of a sense of personal identity, and memory loss. The new study, led by researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and published online on February, 10, 2022 in Nature Communications, centers on a protein called synapse-associated protein 97, or SAP97, that is found in neurons in the brain. The open-access article is titled “Schizophrenia-Associated SAP97 Mutations Increase Glutamatergic Synapse Strength in the Dentate Gyrus and Impair Contextual Episodic Memory in Rats.”

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