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]

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  • JoiquimCouteau

    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

      And what evidence do you have for such a claim?

      • JoiquimCouteau

        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

          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

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

          • De Carabas

            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

            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

        • JoiquimCouteau
          • DeepCough

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

      • WhiteRose

        Evidence evidence evidence… no trust is the problem!

    • John

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

  • Anonymous

    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.

  • Andrew

    No thanks, I’ve had plenty.

  • Andrew

    No thanks, I’ve had plenty.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/RCBGZNI5LDSLNWBYTTZASC6PE4 morristhewise

    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.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/RCBGZNI5LDSLNWBYTTZASC6PE4 morristhewise

    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.

  • DeepCough

    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.

    • John

      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

        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).

        • John

          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

            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.

          • John

            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

            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.

          • John

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

          • DeepCough

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

          • Jackbuitler5555

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

          • Jackbuitler5555

            Evidence?

  • DeepCough

    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.

  • MeNoThinkSo

    And what evidence do you have for such a claim?

  • Anonymous

    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

    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!

  • Anonymous

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

  • Anonymous
  • De Carabas

    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.

  • Anonymous

    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

  • Anonymous

    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

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

  • John

    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.

  • WhiteRose

    Evidence evidence evidence… no trust is the problem!

  • DeepCough

    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).

  • John

    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.

  • John

    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.

  • John

    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.

  • John

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

  • John

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

  • DeepCough

    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.

  • John

    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

    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.

  • John

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

  • DeepCough

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

  • guest

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

  • guest

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

  • medicalnegli

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  • Anonymous

    nice

  • Jackbuitler5555

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

  • Jackbuitler5555

    Evidence?