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 Microglia are the immune cells in the brain. These are microglia in the cerebellum of a mouse which expressed EGFP microglia (via c-fms) and harbour SOD1 mutations. Notice the activated microglia in the grey matter (top of photo). Photo by ALAN REMBACH

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on June 1, 2010

A provocative study using genetically altered mice finds a cause-and-effect link between the immune system and a psychiatric disorder.

Mario Capecchi, a Nobel Prize-winning geneticist, discovered that bone marrow transplants cure mutant mice who pull out their hair compulsively.

The study provides the first cause-and-effect link between immune system cells and mental illness, and points toward eventual new psychiatric treatments.

“We’re showing there is a direct relationship between a psychiatric disorder and the immune system, specifically cells named microglia that are derived from bone marrow” and are found in the brain, says Capecchi.

“There’s been an inference. But nobody has previously made a direct connection between the two.”

The findings – published in the journal Cell – should inspire researchers “to think about potential new immune-based therapies for psychiatric disorders,” says Capecchi, a 2007 Nobel laureate in physiology or medicine.

Capecchi and colleagues showed that pathological grooming and hair-pulling in mice – a disorder similar to trichotillomania (trick-o-til-o-MAY-nee-ah) in humans – is caused by a mutant Hoxb8 gene that results in defective microglia, which are immune system cells that originate in bone marrow and migrate from blood to the brain.

Read in Full:  http://psychcentral.com/news/2010/06/01/immune-disorders-tied-to-mental-illness/14171.html



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