Mental Illness ‘In A Dish’

Cell culture in a petri dish. Photo: Jacopo Werther (CC)

Cell culture in a petri dish. Photo:

Researchers are using skin cells from patients with mental illnesses, such s schizophrenia, to grow new tissue as neurons. The hope is to find a genetic based influence for mental disorders and recognize the early stages of such diseases. From Ewen Callaway via Nature News:

Before committing suicide at the age of 22, an anonymous man with schizophrenia donated a biopsy of his skin cells to research. Reborn as neurons, these cells may help neuroscientists to unpick the disease he struggled with from early childhood.

Experiments on these cells, as well as those of several other patients, are reported today in Nature1. They represent the first of what are sure to be many mental illnesses ‘in a dish’, made by reprogramming patients’ skin cells to an embryonic-like state from which they can form any tissue type.

Recreating neuropsychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder using such cells represents a daunting challenge: scientists do not know the underlying biological basis of mental illnesses; symptoms vary between patients; and although psychiatric illnesses are strongly influenced by genes, it has proved devilishly hard to identify many that explain more than a fraction of a person’s risk.

[Continues at Nature News]

56 Comments on "Mental Illness ‘In A Dish’"

  1. Anonymous | Apr 14, 2011 at 10:00 pm |

    Schizophrenia is a result of our fragmented, alienating, self-referential, post-modern world, which is why it didn’t significantly exist 150 years ago. Yes, there are neurological correlates and yes, you can take drugs to ‘improve markers’, but the root cause is our society itself and how it forces us to think. It’s not a very big step from to post-modernism to schizophrenia.

  2. JoiquimCouteau | Apr 14, 2011 at 6:00 pm |

    Schizophrenia is a result of our fragmented, alienating, self-referential, post-modern world, which is why it didn’t significantly exist 150 years ago. Yes, there are neurological correlates and yes, you can take drugs to ‘improve markers’, but the root cause is our society itself and how it forces us to think. It’s not a very big step from to post-modernism to schizophrenia.

    • MeNoThinkSo | Apr 15, 2011 at 1:13 pm |

      And what evidence do you have for such a claim?

      • JoiquimCouteau | Apr 15, 2011 at 1:57 pm |

        This book.
        http://www.iainmcgilchrist.com
        Also, schizophrenia is a relatively new distinction.

        What evidence do you have that modern society DOESN’T fragment and decontextualize our world, which taken to the extreme is schizophrenia?

        • De Carabas | Apr 15, 2011 at 6:31 pm |

          You cannot prove a negative, attempts to do so are futile. Demands for evidence of a negative are dishonest. Most psych designations are relatively new. The field has only existed for a hundred and fifty years or so. It has only been taken seriously for about a hundred years. It has only been considered a serious medical field for about 40 years or so. You see what I’m getting at? Fuel injection problems didn’t exist 50 years ago! It must be a creation of society, not a real mechanical problem!

          • JoiquimCouteau | Apr 15, 2011 at 6:35 pm |

            So you’re saying that schizophrenia is a mechanical problem? That’s a rather schizophrenic thing to say in itself.

          • De Carabas | Apr 15, 2011 at 6:43 pm |

            No its not. However, taking metaphor literally is a potential symptom thereof. Or more likely, a sign that your not interested in rational discussion, but in pushing a viewpoint. Truthfully, I think schizophrenia is a grossly over-diagnosed disorder, which is largely self fueled since the meds you take for it cause sever mental troubles. But your assertions based on a book and a website and a book are not convincing of anything.

          • JoiquimCouteau | Apr 15, 2011 at 6:47 pm |

            My assertions, maybe not. But his synthesis, yes. Watch the video, or if you don’t have the time watch this one. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NgHxYrwO-Vg&NR

          • DeepCough | Apr 15, 2011 at 10:07 pm |

            I would also recommend the works of R.D. Laing, Thomas Szasz, and David Rosenhan.

      • WhiteRose | Apr 16, 2011 at 7:31 pm |

        Evidence evidence evidence… no trust is the problem!

    • So many manifestations of schizophrenia — and none existed 150 years ago? Or, did we lack the diagnostic tools back then?

  3. No thanks, I’ve had plenty.

  4. No thanks, I’ve had plenty.

  5. The effects of radiation on the brain and personality were once explored. Nazi scientists thought by exposing the brain to enough radiation they could transform a traitor into a loyal Nazi. Unfortunately most of the results of the Nazi experiments involving the effects of radiation on the brain were destroyed.

  6. The effects of radiation on the brain and personality were once explored. Nazi scientists thought by exposing the brain to enough radiation they could transform a traitor into a loyal Nazi. Unfortunately most of the results of the Nazi experiments involving the effects of radiation on the brain were destroyed.

  7. DeepCough | Apr 15, 2011 at 9:25 am |

    Holy fuck. When I see a word like “neuropsychiatric,” I balk at it just as I would at the word “creation science,” because both of these words are bastard designations: both words are built on two roots that are ultimately conflicting views of a subject, one being scientific, the other metaphysical. Basically, reading this article is like learning about natural selection and creationism at the same time: both sides are attempting to answer the question of existence, and the lack of concurrence between the two makes it impossible to discern what the answer to that question even is, and then one side betrays the other with a simple declarative statement, and you’re more confused than ever. To digress, the article itself concedes that the classification of schizophrenia, its pathophysiology, its aetiology, are all really quite shaky, and yet psychiatrists, psychiatric geneticists, neuroscientists, neurogeneticists, chemical neurobiologists experiment undeterred by the utter lack of an organic definition for schizophrenia by analyzing it at the genetic level, even though they have idea which genes potentially trigger mental illness, or for that matter, what gene sequence (it’s kinda like digging for treasure without knowing exactly where to dig). Do not misunderstand me as a “Negative Nancy” to people trying to find a genuine cure for mental illness, because analyzing the neurons is definitely a good start–however, I think it’s unscientific, dare I say stupid, to link any one behavior or series of behaviors to genes, especially when standards of human behavior are more sociological than biological.

  8. DeepCough | Apr 15, 2011 at 5:25 am |

    Holy fuck. When I see a word like “neuropsychiatric,” I balk at it just as I would at the word “creation science,” because both of these words are bastard designations: both words are built on two roots that are ultimately conflicting views of a subject, one being scientific, the other metaphysical. Basically, reading this article is like learning about natural selection and creationism at the same time: both sides are attempting to answer the question of existence, and the lack of concurrence between the two makes it impossible to discern what the answer to that question even is, and then one side betrays the other with a simple declarative statement, and you’re more confused than ever. To digress, the article itself concedes that the classification of schizophrenia, its pathophysiology, its aetiology, are all really quite shaky, and yet psychiatrists, psychiatric geneticists, neuroscientists, neurogeneticists, chemical neurobiologists experiment undeterred by the utter lack of an organic definition for schizophrenia by analyzing it at the genetic level, even though they have idea which genes potentially trigger mental illness, or for that matter, what gene sequence (it’s kinda like digging for treasure without knowing exactly where to dig). Do not misunderstand me as a “Negative Nancy” to people trying to find a genuine cure for mental illness, because analyzing the neurons is definitely a good start–however, I think it’s unscientific, dare I say stupid, to link any one behavior or series of behaviors to genes, especially when standards of human behavior are more sociological than biological.

    • If scientists discover genetic differences between those who have disorders and those who do not, would this not be quite helpful? Anyone who has witnessed, say, a person in a full blown, manic state would not attribute this behavior as merely a variation of human behavior standards. Catatonia is not a sociological phenomenon.

      • DeepCough | Apr 18, 2011 at 1:51 am |

        Yeah, it would help that scientists understood a disease at the ORGANIC level before they go delving down to the GENETIC level, because no one gene is entirely responsible for one thing, and even as the article states, the scientists found thousands of different gene variations for people who have schizophrenia. So, as I’ve stated before, not that I’m fully against people looking for cures for diseases, but the methodology needs some real basic refinement if scientists wanna get anywhere (and it looks to me, they’re just coming up with random ideas just to get grant money).

        • I see no problem with a full court press on understanding mental illness, which of course would include organic.

          Regarding the genetic variations associated with schizophrenia, that is easily explained by the fact that schizophrenia itself has many variations. It has been a catchall diagnosis. If we were smarter, we’d be able to sort all of these out in different categories of disorders. At that point, we’d be able to see whether or not there are genetic match-ups.

          In the meantime, would it shock you to learn that ADD/ADHD, for example, is passed from generation to generation. Of course, not. You know that.

          • DeepCough | Apr 19, 2011 at 10:58 pm |

            And I bet you know that the symptomatology of ADD/ADHD is purely for the sake of selling drugs like Ritalin and Adderall, but I bet you knew that already, too.

          • You apparently must agree with me on schizophrenia, not having commented.

            Your assertion on ADD/ADHD is difficult to follow. Surely, you’re not saying that Adderall and Ritalin do not relieve ADD/ADHD symptoms for many victims of this disorder. Or, are you?

          • DeepCough | Apr 20, 2011 at 6:20 pm |

            You’re right–it’s a crazy assumption on my part to assert that Psychiatric evaluations are just superficial observations made on part by people who flat-out failed biology and anatomy, which would mean that the diseases they describe don’t have any real pathophysiology, and therefore that all treatments for these “mental illnesses” are essentially bullshit to help fill the pockets of those who participate in the pharmaceutical racket.

          • So, psychiatrists failed anatomy and biology but got their MD anyway. I had no idea.

          • DeepCough | Apr 21, 2011 at 12:09 am |

            It’s not what you know, it’s who you blow, which in this case, is the pharmaceutical companies.

          • Jackbuitler5555 | Jul 29, 2011 at 8:48 am |

            Do you have a rational basis for this observation, or did you fail classes on the Scientific Method?

          • Jackbuitler5555 | Jul 29, 2011 at 8:49 am |

            Evidence?

  9. MeNoThinkSo | Apr 15, 2011 at 5:13 pm |

    And what evidence do you have for such a claim?

  10. Anonymous | Apr 15, 2011 at 5:57 pm |

    This book.
    http://www.iainmcgilchrist.com
    Also, schizophrenia is a relatively new distinction.

    What evidence do you have that modern society DOESN’T fragment and decontextualize our world, which taken to the extreme is schizophrenia?

  11. De Carabas | Apr 15, 2011 at 10:31 pm |

    You cannot prove a negative, attempts to do so are futile. Demands for evidence of a negative are dishonest. Most psych designations are relatively new. The field has only existed for a hundred and fifty years or so. It has only been taken seriously for about a hundred years. It has only been considered a serious medical field for about 40 years or so. You see what I’m getting at? Fuel injection problems didn’t exist 50 years ago! It must be a creation of society, not a real mechanical problem!

  12. Anonymous | Apr 15, 2011 at 10:35 pm |

    So you’re saying that schizophrenia is a mechanical problem? That’s a rather schizophrenic thing to say in itself.

  13. De Carabas | Apr 15, 2011 at 10:43 pm |

    No its not. However, taking metaphor literally is a potential symptom thereof. Or more likely, a sign that your not interested in rational discussion, but in pushing a viewpoint. Truthfully, I think schizophrenia is a grossly over-diagnosed disorder, which is largely self fueled since the meds you take for it cause sever mental troubles. But your assertions based on a book and a website and a book are not convincing of anything.

  14. Anonymous | Apr 15, 2011 at 10:47 pm |

    My assertions, maybe not. But his synthesis, yes. Watch the video, or if you don’t have the time watch this one. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NgHxYrwO-Vg&NR

  15. Anonymous | Apr 15, 2011 at 10:47 pm |

    My assertions, maybe not. But his synthesis, yes. Watch the video, or if you don’t have the time watch this one. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NgHxYrwO-Vg&NR

  16. DeepCough | Apr 16, 2011 at 2:07 am |

    I would also recommend the works of R.D. Laing, Thomas Szasz, and David Rosenhan.

  17. If scientists discover genetic differences between those who have disorders and those who do not, would this not be quite helpful? Anyone who has witnessed, say, a person in a full blown, manic state would not attribute this behavior as merely a variation of human behavior standards. Catatonia is not a sociological phenomenon.

  18. WhiteRose | Apr 16, 2011 at 11:31 pm |

    Evidence evidence evidence… no trust is the problem!

  19. DeepCough | Apr 18, 2011 at 5:51 am |

    Yeah, it would help that scientists understood a disease at the ORGANIC level before they go delving down to the GENETIC level, because no one gene is entirely responsible for one thing, and even as the article states, the scientists found thousands of different gene variations for people who have schizophrenia. So, as I’ve stated before, not that I’m fully against people looking for cures for diseases, but the methodology needs some real basic refinement if scientists wanna get anywhere (and it looks to me, they’re just coming up with random ideas just to get grant money).

  20. I see no problem with a full court press on understanding mental illness, which of course would include organic.

    Regarding the genetic variations associated with schizophrenia, that is easily explained by the fact that schizophrenia itself has many variations. It has been a catchall diagnosis. If we were smarter, we’d be able to sort all of these out in different categories of disorders. At that point, we’d be able to see whether or not there are genetic match-ups.

    In the meantime, would it shock you to learn that ADD/ADHD, for example, is passed from generation to generation. Of course, not. You know that.

  21. I see no problem with a full court press on understanding mental illness, which of course would include organic.

    Regarding the genetic variations associated with schizophrenia, that is easily explained by the fact that schizophrenia itself has many variations. It has been a catchall diagnosis. If we were smarter, we’d be able to sort all of these out in different categories of disorders. At that point, we’d be able to see whether or not there are genetic match-ups.

    In the meantime, would it shock you to learn that ADD/ADHD, for example, is passed from generation to generation. Of course, not. You know that.

  22. I see no problem with a full court press on understanding mental illness, which of course would include organic.

    Regarding the genetic variations associated with schizophrenia, that is easily explained by the fact that schizophrenia itself has many variations. It has been a catchall diagnosis. If we were smarter, we’d be able to sort all of these out in different categories of disorders. At that point, we’d be able to see whether or not there are genetic match-ups.

    In the meantime, would it shock you to learn that ADD/ADHD, for example, is passed from generation to generation. Of course, not. You know that.

  23. So many manifestations of schizophrenia — and none existed 150 years ago? Or, did we lack the diagnostic tools back then?

  24. So many manifestations of schizophrenia — and none existed 150 years ago? Or, did we lack the diagnostic tools back then?

  25. DeepCough | Apr 20, 2011 at 2:58 am |

    And I bet you know that the symptomatology of ADD/ADHD is purely for the sake of selling drugs like Ritalin and Adderall, but I bet you knew that already, too.

  26. You apparently must agree with me on schizophrenia, not having commented.

    Your assertion on ADD/ADHD is difficult to follow. Surely, you’re not saying that Adderall and Ritalin do not relieve ADD/ADHD symptoms for many victims of this disorder. Or, are you?

  27. DeepCough | Apr 20, 2011 at 10:20 pm |

    You’re right–it’s a crazy assumption on my part to assert that Psychiatric evaluations are just superficial observations made on part by people who flat-out failed biology and anatomy, which would mean that the diseases they describe don’t have any real pathophysiology, and therefore that all treatments for these “mental illnesses” are essentially bullshit to help fill the pockets of those who participate in the pharmaceutical racket.

  28. So, psychiatrists failed anatomy and biology but got their MD anyway. I had no idea.

  29. DeepCough | Apr 21, 2011 at 4:09 am |

    It’s not what you know, it’s who you blow, which in this case, is the pharmaceutical companies.

  30. I appreciate the research they are doing. It could help so many people. 

  31. I appreciate the research they are doing. It could help so many people. 

  32. Anonymous | Jul 29, 2011 at 7:59 am |

    nice

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  34. Jackbuitler5555 | Jul 29, 2011 at 12:48 pm |

    Do you have a rational basis for this observation, or did you fail classes on the Scientific Method?

  35. Jackbuitler5555 | Jul 29, 2011 at 12:49 pm |

    Evidence?

Comments are closed.