Schizophrenia affects more than 21 million people around the world. It occurs more frequently and starts earlier in men than in women; which is why a group of researchers set out to look for sex-specific genes related to the disease, finding that up to 61% of them have an impact on it. Schizophrenia is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by a distortion of thought, perceptions, emotions, language, self-awareness and behavior. It typically manifests itself after adolescence and is estimated to have about 50% of the risk of schizophrenia having genetic bases, while the rest is explained by environmental-related mechanisms.
A team coordinated by the University of Helsinki, the University of Eastern Finland and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, published a study on the disease focusing on genes and proteins that are expressed differentially in men and women. To that end, what they did was use induced pluripotent stem cells, that is, modified adult cells to have the properties of embryonic stem cells. In other words: cells that, when genetically modified, act similarly to embryonic stem cells, which have the ability to become any type of cell in the body. Using this technique, they took skin cells to generate neurons. The participants were pairs of monozygotic twins—genetically identical—of which one suffered from schizophrenia and the other did not. Although of the 19,462 genes only the expression of 12% of them differs in healthy men and women, 61% of disease-related genes were found to be sex-specific. This may explain why symptoms appear after adolescence, a period in which sexual maturation occurs. According to the World Health Organization, more than 50% of schizophrenics do not receive adequate care. It can affect educational and job performance, and schizophrenics often suffer stigmatization, discrimination and violation of their human rights. The results of the study suggest that men and women with schizophrenia need different treatment, which may result in more appropriate and beneficial therapies. In this note: