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Aurora magazine

Schizophrenia: it is also the fault of the placenta

The team of Dr. Daniel Weinberger has discovered a new possible origin of schizophrenia: the placenta. According to the study, an abnormal placenta could influence brain development and contribute to the manifestation of schizophrenia. Any complications in pregnancy make the phenomenon even more likely.

Schizophrenia is a psychiatric illness that causes visual and auditory hallucinations. Usually it manifests itself in adolescence or around twenty years. In 2014, a study identified 108 regions in our DNA related to the disease. Nevertheless, it is thought that the causes are a union of genetic and environmental factors. Complications during childbirth and childhood traumas would seem to play an important role, for example.

Dr. Weinberger's team investigated the link between genetics, pregnancy complications and schizophrenia. In particular, the researchers focused on a group of complications already previously linked to the disease. These include infections in pregnancy, pre-eclampsia, reduced weight at birth, risky birth. At least 1 pregnancy out of 5 experiences one of these problems, yet only 1% of the population suffers from schizophrenia. This means that there is no link between disease and complications.

For the present study, scientists analyzed data from nearly 2,900 people. Some of these were schizophrenic, others presented similar problems but did not manifest the disease. It has emerged that the 108 DNA regions of schizophrenia are also associated with complications during pregnancy. In fact, almost half of these are related to the development of the placenta. The cause of the manifestation of the disease would therefore be in a bad functioning of this organ.

The incriminated genetic anomalies cause a narrowing of the placenta. This causes a decrease in nutrients and oxygen that reach the brain of the fetus, perhaps laying the foundations for the manifestation of schizophrenia later in life.