Genes Changes Before Birth Lead to Brain Diseases

Scientists from Yale University and University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) have conducted a new genetic analysis study and found that certain changes that occur in the brain’s prefrontal cortex before birth and through childhood that could lead to autism and schizophrenia.

Sirisha Pochareddy, an associate research scientist of neuroscience at Yale University, and her colleagues conducted this study and estimated the amount of RNA to study gene activity that is associated with brain illness.

This research is different because past studies found that DNA changes were linked with brain illnesses but it wasn’t known when these changes turned into functional changes in the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex, a region closely linked to neuropsychiatric, cognitive and emotional disorders.

The researchers explain that once genetic changes are understood, the scientists can grasp the changes in brain development that lead to illnesses such as autism and schizophrenia. Researchers have discovered thousands of genes but now they figure out a group of genes that check biological processes and determine how they can route to disease.

Sirisha Pochareddy says:

This is an unprecedented resource for understanding how individual genetic differences might lead to functional differences. This is the first large cohort to profile DNA and RNA both in prenatal and postnatal human brain samples, making it an unprecedented resource for understanding how individual genetic differences might lead to functional differences.

The co-senior authors of the study include Nenand Sestan and Kate Cushing from the Department of Neuroscience, and Stephen Sanders, an associate professor at the Weill Institute for Neurosciences at the University of California-San Francisco.

Co-lead authors include Sirisha Pochareddy, Donna Werling, Joon-Yong and Jinmyung Choi.

Donna Werling, co-lead author, formerly of UCSF and now at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, explains:

Brain growth of humans is a miraculously complex and active process. If any damage or change occurs during that process, it can lead to severe results on the brain function. We have been successful in finding some genetic changes that have a powerful impact on the expression of RNA prior to birth and other variants with powerful effects after birth.

This study was published on April 7 in the journal Cell Reports.

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