this gliosis? Is it good? Is it bad? Is it driving the disease process, or is it trying to repair the injured brain?”
Barres found that a protein called C1q that marks injured or unused cells for elimination triggers the pruning process. To keep the flow of neural transmissions efficient, the brain needs only the synapses that are actually in use, so the C1q protein is integral to healthy brain development. But in fully-developed, healthy neurons, the C1q protein is virtually absent.
Barres and Stevens conducted research on mice bred to develop neurological disorders. They found that not only was the C1q protein present in adult cells, but it also appeared before any other detectable sign of the disease. It was evident even before cells started dying.
Steven McCarroll, Ph.D. led a study identifying a similar protein, C4, that is activated in schizophrenic brains.
“I think the implication of that is they could be lifelong diseases,” says Barres. “The disease process could be going on for decades and the brain is just compensating, rewiring, making
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