Connection between the Development of Schizophrenia and an Immune Protein

A recent study conducted by scientists at UCLA may be an important step towards unveiling the underlying cause of autism, schizophrenia, and other neurological disorders.

In the study, the scientists looked at MHC – the name of a protein the plays an important role in the immune system as well as in neural connections that occur in the brain. MHC stands for major histocompatibility complex.
By observing this protein in mice, the scientists discovered that the mice that produced higher than normal amounts of MHC had subtle changes in the neural connections in the brain.

Neurons typically manufacture more MHC when they sense brain damage or infection. The researchers wanted to look at the impact elevated MHC on development brains. Prior research has shown a link between infections in woman who are pregnant and an increased risk of their children developing autism and schizophrenia.

This study suggests that this link may be due to elevated levels of MHC.

Experts do not yet know the exact causes of autism and schizophrenia. Studies like this provide clues that may help them eventually discover how to prevent the development of these challenging disorders.

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