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Schizophrenia in a Dish

May 12, 2011

Researchers have re-created dysfunctional brain cells from the skin of a schizophrenic patient.



Schizophrenia in a dish…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Skin cells from schizophrenic patients have been reborn in the lab – as dysfunctional brain cells that may shed light on the donors’ illness. Neurobiologist Fred Gage and geneticist Kristen Brennand of the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California co-designed the experiment. Gage’s team reprogrammed the skin cells into something like stem cells.

FRED GAGE (Salk Institute):

And those stem-cell-like cells can be converted into neurons. And now what that means is that we have neurons from an identified patient that we can examine in a dish.


The schizophrenic neurons formed fewer connections with one another than reprogrammed neurons from mentally healthy patients. Gage says the technique, which is already used to study more straightforward diseases, could be especially important in understanding the complex workings of mental illness. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.