Characterization of oligodendrocyte abnormalities in schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a severe psychiatric illness affecting approximately one per cent of Canadians. While the causes are not yet fully understood, it is thought that the symptoms of this disorder may arise from abnormalities in nerve fibre connections between different brain regions. Mounting evidence suggests that a contributing factor may be abnormalities in myelin, the fatty insulating substance that surrounds nerve fibres and speeds up the transmission of nerve impulses. Studies have shown reduced density of oligodendrocytes, the brain cells that produce myelin, and altered expression of several proteins found specifically in myelin—suggesting a possible source for impaired transmission of nerve impulses between brain regions. Through a series of investigations Dr. Clare Beasley is examining the role of oligodendrocytes in schizophrenia. She will characterize oligodendrocyte alterations in the brain in schizophrenia and examine their relationship with myelin proteins and lipids. By better understanding the connection between abnormalities in these myelin-producing cells and the symptoms of schizophrenia, she hopes to shed light on the cause of this devastating disorder.