Researchers at the Salk Institute may have new clues about schizophrenia after studying skin cells of individuals diagnosed with the disorder.
Using neurons generated from a patient’s skin cells, scientists were able to use new technology to regress those cells back to an earlier stem cell form. Those stem cells were then grown into very early stage neurons, called neural progenitor cells (NPCs). NPCs are similar to the cells in the brain of a developing fetus. Researchers documented these NPCs behaved strangely in the early stages of development, offering clues that may aid in earlier detection and treatment of schizophrenia. Until now, scientists have only been able to study the brains of cadavers, making it difficult to determine when in the developmental process changes began to occur to the brain.
The cells taken from people with schizophrenia differed in two ways: They had abnormal migration patterns and greater levels of oxidative stress. Researchers found that current antipsychotic medications, however, did not improve the migration patterns.
The study supports the idea that neurological dysfunctions that lead to schizophrenia may begin in the brain of a fetus.
The full results of the study are available in the April issue of Molecular Psychiatry.
Research from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has found that following a steady increase in the number of hospitalizations for eating disorders from 1999 to 2007, the number of individuals checking into hospitals with these principal diagnoses has fallen by 23 percent from 2007 to 2009, the latest year for which numbers are available. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder, with anorexia specifically being the leading cause of mortality in women between the ages of 15 and 24. During this time period, the severity of reported eating disorders decreased, as well.
However, patients found to have eating disorders were often hospitalized for other presenting conditions, such as depression, fluid or electrolyte disorders, schizophrenia, or alcohol-related issues. Statistics showed that although 90 percent of those suffering from eating disorders were female, eating disorders in men increased 53 percent since 2007.
In light of the recent decrease in eating disorders, from 1999 to 2009, hospitalizations skyrocketed 93 percent for the disorder pica. Pica is usually diagnosed in women and children and causes them to eat inedible materials like clay, dirt, chalk, or feces. During the 10-year period, the number of hospitalizations for patients with pica increased from 964 to 1,862.
Why do you think the number of eating disorders in general has gone down while the number of individuals diagnosed with pica has increased?