Tiny molecular change linked to psychiatric illness

Based on this research, it appears that a tiny change on the molecular level in the brain cells of babies can lead to all sorts of psychiatric problems later in life.  Drinking, physical abuse, drug use or illness in the mother, all can cause illnesses such as schizophrenia and some forms of autism and bipolar disorders for a fetus.  We're talking of changes of the most basic chemical type within the developing fetal cells of a newborn leading to a lifetime of mental issues.

This information, perhaps not directly related to a character in your story, can help you understand how this person became the way they are.  In the debate of nature versus nurture, it appears that nature is the culprit.  This asks the question, "can talk therapy cure such a disease when its cause is genetic?"  I can't answer this.

From a human standpoint, since the stem cells of people with a psychiatric problem were used to make this "diagnosis", is there hope that a stem cell therapy may be available some day in the future.  

Come to think of it, this could be core of a plot for a nice piece of fiction, don't you think?

Here's the report:

A single molecular mechanism in the developing brain has been identified that sheds light on how cells may go awry when exposed to a variety of different environmental insults. The findings suggest that different types of stressors prenatally activate a single molecular trigger in brain cells that may make exposed individuals susceptible to late-onset neuropsychiatric disorders.

Children whose mothers were exposed during pregnancy to any one of a variety of environmental stressors -- such as trauma, illness, and alcohol or drug abuse -- become susceptible to various psychiatric disorders later in life such as schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and some forms of autism and bipolar disorders.

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Yale University researchers have identified a single molecular mechanism in the developing brain that sheds light on how cells may go awry when exposed to a variety of different environmental insults. The findings suggest that different types of stressors prenatally activate a single molecular trigger in brain cells that may make exposed individuals susceptible to late-onset neuropsychiatric disorders.

In addition, researchers created stem cells -- which are capable of becoming neurons -- from biopsies of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia. Genes from these "schizophrenic" stem cells responded more dramatically when exposed to environmental insults than stem cells obtained from non-schizophrenic individuals. The findings support to the thesis that stress induces vulnerable cells to malfunction.
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Story Source: Materials provided by Yale University, written by Bill Hathaway from the research by Kazue Hashimoto-Torii, Masaaki Torii, Mitsuaki Fujimoto, Akira Nakai, Rachid El Fatimy, Valerie Mezger, Min J. Ju, Seiji Ishii, Shih-hui Chao, Kristen J. Brennand, Fred H. Gage, Pasko Rakic. Roles of Heat Shock Factor 1 in Neuronal Response to Fetal Environmental Risks and Its Relevance to Brain Disorders. Neuron, 2014

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