A new study of aging and schizophrenia reveals synchronized gene expression in astrocytes and neurons.

Postdoctoral researcher, Emi Ling, published her work on “A concerted neuron-astrocyte program declines in ageing and schizophrenia” in Nature. Ling et al. analyzed the prefrontal cortex of 191 human donors by single-nucleus RNA-seq of postmortem brain tissue samples pooled together in “villages.” We found a striking relationship between cortical neuron and astrocyte gene expression that we call SNAP (Synaptic Neuron-Astrocyte Program). Expression of SNAP varied across people and declined with age and in persons with schizophrenia. This work suggests there may be a shared biological basis for cognitive impairment in aging and schizophrenia and illustrates how inter-individual variation can reveal novel brain biology.

This work was also highlighted in a Broad news story and a Harvard Medical School news story.

Schematic of a neuron and astrocyte

Photo credit: Ricardo Job-Reese