Schizophrenia Is a Mystery, But This Discovery Might Change Things

Schizophrenia has stumped scientists for centuries, but lab-grown brains have just provided a breakthrough in our understanding of the disease.

Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder that has been fascinating scientists for hundreds of years because it is not yet understood. However, we may have finally found the root of this devastating disorder, it starts when the brain is forming in the womb. Schizophrenia causes people to hallucinate, have a distorted view of reality, and experience extremely disordered thinking. Brain function can be so badly affected that it’s disabling.

Symptoms usually appear in adolescence or young adulthood and while some research has suggested a link between schizophrenia, drug usage, and trauma it’s has never been well understood. Because the symptoms appear later in life, researchers have long assumed the root cause is a mix of genetics, brain chemistry and environmental factors — environmental being your upbringing not the air you breathe.

In the past patients have long been misdiagnosed and mistreated, sometimes even being jailed. But new technology has helped us understand what’s really going on. Medical imaging has shown that a patient with schizophrenia has a brain and Central Nervous System that look different than an unaffected patient’s. There are hundreds of genetic mutations that might cause schizophrenia, but scans all show affected brains share the same "faulty genomic pathway.”

It’s clear from mounting evidence that schizophrenia is a brain disease. Armed with this new information, researchers turned to consider how that one pathway can be consistently faulty among so many patients. And they used an incredible technique: they grew mini-brain structures in a lab.