The neurobiological mechanisms behind schizophrenia may depend on gender, a new study suggests. The finding may explain why the condition appears after adolescence, when the expression of many sex-specific genes change.
The study, published in Nature Communications, investigated the differences in gene and protein expression in neurons from monozygotic twins discordant for schizophrenia and healthy controls, as well as between males and females, using induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology.
Schizophrenia was found to be associated especially with altered glycosaminoglycan, GABAergic synapse, sialylation and purine metabolism pathways. Although only 12 per cent of the 19,462 genes were expressed differentially between healthy males and females, up to 61 per cent of the illness-related genes were sex specific.
The authors say the findings imply that the neurobiological pathophysiology of schizophrenia differs between males and females. This may explain why symptoms appear after adolescence, they say. They say the research suggests there is a need for sex-specific treatments for schizophrenia.
They add that the method of using individual-specific iPSC-derived neurons may also be a strategy for early prevention, testing and development of novel pharmacological treatments.