Protein buildup attributed to certain type of schizophrenia

August 28, 2019

Hypotheses abound about the neurodegenerative disorder schizophrenia, with explanations ranging from developmental complications to bacterial infections. However, new studies from Johns Hopkins Medicine in Maryland, US, has found that abnormal protein buildup in the brain, similar to Alzheimer’s, results in the dysfunctional neurodevelopment and neural death characteristic of schizophrenia.

When the researchers examined 42 post-mortem samples of brains from schizophrenia patients,around half had significantly higher levels of misfolded or abnormal proteins, compared to the remaining healthy control samples. These brain samples also showed elevated levels of a protein named ubiquitin which is a known marker for protein aggregates in neurodegenerative disorders.

To ascertain that the abnormal proteins were unrelated to the side effects of anti-psychotic medications often administered to patients, a subsequent five-month rat study was conducted and the rats’ brain samples revealed no abnormal protein accumulations or ubiquitin increases.

As the disease itself is thought to be the primary source of the protein build-up, the abnormal proteins could potentially serve as a biomarker that is characteristic of a certain subtype of schizophrenia.

Lead researcher Frederick Nucifora Jr., said that the possibility of protein aggregation could open new ways to look at the disorder and develop more effective therapies, as “the brain only has so many ways to handle abnormal proteins” before apparent dysfunction.

Following their role in nervous system development and function, the abnormal proteins will be examined in living subjects with schizophrenia – Johns Hopkins scientists have devised a new method that can take samples of neurons from a living patient’s nose to effectively track levels of these abnormal proteins.


Category: Education, Features

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