Class blog for sharing and commenting on current events in biology.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

"Jumping Genes" Linked to Schizophrenia
By Tia Ghose and LiveScience
Schizophrenia is long term mental disorder, which breaks down the relation between thought, emotions, actions, and reality. The exact cause of this disease is not known, but a new study shows the “Jumping Genes” tie to schizophrenia. Jumping genes, or retrotransposons, they are mobile genetic elements that copy and paste themselves throughout the genome; they make up half of the genome. These genes may alter how neurons, or nerve cells in the brain, form during development, thereby increasing the risk of schizophrenia. Earlier studies showed that a specific type of jumping gene known as long interspersed nuclear element-1 (LINE-1), was active in human brain cells. Dr. Tadafumi Kato was one of the leading researchers in this experiment. He and his team wanted to know if LINE-1 played a role in mental illness. The team conducted a post-mortem analysis of 120 human brains, 13 of which, the patient had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. The team found a higher number of LINE-1 copies in the brains of schizophrenics compared with other groups.
The team also found that stem cells, or body cells that haven't yet become specialized, derived from the brains of people with schizophrenia had a higher concentration of LINE-1 genes than did those from people without the diagnosis. The team also found that people with schizophrenia, LINE-1 concentrations were increased near genes associated with psychiatric disorders that control how neurons in the brain communicate with one another. They concluded that LINE-1 segments could be inserting themselves into genes vital for brain development. When they are triggered by genetic and or environmental factors, they can alter that brain development, causing schizophrenia. A second test was conducted using mice and primates with inflammation meant to mimic schizophrenia. The results showed that these animals had more moveable genetic elements than healthy animals.
Though the results are very convincing, they cannot prove just yet they cause schizophrenia, just that there is a link between the two. But, the LINE-1 gene can help with other gene disorders, because it causes some people to be brilliant, but others to have debilitating diseases like Autism and Schizophrenia.
            These discoveries could improve our understanding of schizophrenia. Also, they could help us prevent the disease and improve medicines. Living with schizophrenia is extremely difficult; people with it cannot control themselves. It not only affects the patient, but also all who have to live with that person. Many times, the patient cannot hold a job or live on their own and they need help from family and friends. These new discoveries can help improve the debilitating lifestyle that comes with schizophrenia.
            This article was very well written. It was easy to read, but a few terms I had to look up, because I only had little knowledge on them. The authors probably could have expanded on these terms making it easier to read through without having to look things up. Otherwise, it was very informative and I learned a lot. 


  1. I really enjoyed reading your current event, Ansley! I’ve heard of schizophrenia before and I know a little about it, but I’ve never thought about what the cause of this disease is. You really described LINE-1 genes in great detail, which made it much easier to understand the idea that these concentrated genes can lead to mental illness. I also liked the part about how stem cells have been found in the brains of people with schizophrenia. This was especially interesting because we just learned about this in class and you tied it to your topic perfectly, plus you connected it to the LINE-1 genes and how they are found in these stem cells of schizophrenic people. It was fascinating to learn that the LINE-1 genes are putting themselves into the brain into genes that are vital for brain development and when they are expressed, it can cause schizophrenia. I also appreciated how you included two different experiments to show how schizophrenic people, or animals in a similar state, function compared to healthy people (before they were dead) or animals. Additionally, your relevance paragraph was a great connection to how their families are affected by this disease and so on. One suggestion is that it might’ve been helpful to include a little more background information on this disorder in the first few sentences and maybe a few of the symptoms, although you most likely can assume that many people already know what schizophrenia is. Overall, great job; this current event was very well done!

  2. Ansley, the topic you researched is very interesting, and the results sound very groundbreaking. You did a great job at explaining the background of jumping genes, and how they may land at a place in the genome where brain development is crucial. You also made the LINE-1 gene and its relation to schizophrenia studies very understandable. Finally, you did a really nice job at synthesizing the research of this article, which sounds very advanced, and explaining how increased concentrations of the LINE-1 gene in schizophrenia patients points toward a discovery, but does not guarantee that it is the cause. Since I did not know a lot about schizophrenia, I learned a lot from your review. Specifically, I learned about the symptoms and hardships in the lives of people with schizophrenia, including how they often cannot maintain a job and cannot connect thought, emotion, action, and reality. I also learned for the first time about jumping genes, and I had no idea that there were mobile genetic elements that copy and paste themselves in our genome. If there was one thing to improve upon, I might suggest going into greater depth about the genetic aspects of LINE-1, for example, if there is a certain group or population who is most susceptible to it. Overall, great job, Ansley!

  3. The information presented in this article used very sophisticated medical vocabulary, and you did a great job deciphering the meanings of words and phrasing them in a way that made them easier to read and comprehend. Schizophrenia was defined in a very understandable way for someone who had no prior knowledge of the disorder, outlining all of the parts that comprise the aspects of the disorder. The relationship of the LINE-1 gene and its direct correlation to schizophrenia was a major point of your article that you explained very clearly. I found it interesting to see how the experiment utilized stem cells, a topic we learned in Biology class, and how they were applicable to see how the brains’ of people inflicted with schizophrenia had a higher concentration of the LINE-1 gene in comparison to people without diagnosis. It is fascinating how the LINE-1 disease is so influential in the body; it can cause great intellectual aptitude or result in incurable genetic disorders, such as, autism and schizophrenia. LINE-1 segments insert themselves into genes whose function is brain development. I did not know schizophrenia could have such a major impact on the life of an individual and cause such hardship in one’s daily life. This article really demonstrated the topics we learned in class, such as gene expression and stem cells, and showed how they are used in groundbreaking scientific research. Overall, I would have liked to hear more of a personal side of schizophrenia, such as, a quote of a person inflicted with schizophrenia and how it impacts the course of their daily life or perhaps a quote of a scientist working on the research and how this study relates to the cure for schizophrenia.