The placenta plays an important role during pregnancy. It connects the developing fetus to the uterine wall by supplying nutrients, waste elimination, and gas exchange through the mother's blood. Placenta also helps in fighting infection and producing hormones to support the pregnancy.
High blood pressure is a common pregnancy complication and such complications can 'turn on' the schizophrenia genes in the placenta and signal that the organ is distressed.
Schizophrenia is a mental health condition which affects a person's thinking, feeling, and can cause distorted view of reality.
The study found that those people with pregnancy complications and with genetic risk of schizophrenia were five times more likely to develop the condition than the pregnant women without any complications but with an equally high genetic risk.
Higher Male Risk For Schizophrenia
The findings also reveal that schizophrenia genes are expressed more prominently in placenta from males than females. Now, this makes it clear why schizophrenia and other behavioral disorders are two to four times higher in males than the females.
The researchers examined a data on 2,800 adults from four countries across the world and found that 2,038 participants were diagnosed with the condition. The study says more signs of the placenta being under distress, increases the risk of schizophrenia genes.
Dr Daniel Weinberger, lead study investigator and CEO of the Lieber Institute said, "For the first time, we have found an explanation for the connection between early life complications, genetic risk, and their impact on mental illness and it all converges on the placenta,"
He further added, "The surprising results of this study make the placenta the centerpiece of a new realm of biological investigation related to how genes and the environment interact to alter the trajectory of human brain development."
The study was published in the journal Nature Medicine.