Good News Buts It’s Too early for It’s developement
New hope in schizophrenia research
Research out of Johns Hopkins University may be the start of a promising development for the treatment of schizophrenia.
While studying an anti-cancer drug in mice, researchers found it reversed behaviours associated with schizophrenia and even restored some lost brain cell function in mice affected by the rodent version of the disease.
The medication is part of a class of drugs called PAK inhibitors, also shown to offer some protection in other brain conditions such as Fragile X syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease.
In this study examining effects on adolescent mice whose condition mimics the progression of human schizophrenia, the experimental compound appeared to stop a biological ‘pruning’ process, which occurs in schizophrenia and needlessly destroys neural connections. Using the PAK inhibitor compound, researchers were able to partially restore disabled neurons in young mice.
By stopping the out of control pruning, the researchers were also able to normalize the rodents’ behaviour. Achieving these results in such young mice was a particularly hopeful development since schizophrenia in humans typically begins to show up in late adolescence or early adulthood and tends to get worse over time.
To date, we are not sure that PAK operates the same way in humans as it does in mice, so more work is definitely needed before we can be sure it will have a similar effect for humans.
However, if we are able to replicate these findings in later stage clinical trials and in humans, it may improve the prognosis for those diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia affects roughly one percent of the population. It is a chronic disease characterized by disordered thinking and symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations. In addition, people with schizophrenia can have an altered sense of self, a lack of motivation, blunted emotions and confused communication and thinking. Depression and social withdrawal are also very common.
Symptoms typically begin in adolescence or early adulthood and generally progress as a gradual deterioration in the brain’s ability to process information or communicate with itself. Because of its gradual onset, it can take quite a while for family or friends to realize there is a serious problem.
Some early warning signs to be aware of include: bizarre or unusual behaviour; an inability to sleep or mixing up of day and night; social withdrawal or isolation; hyperactivity or inactivity; inability to concentrate; unusual preoccupation with religion or the occult; hostility, suspicion or fearfulness; over-reaction to peer or family disapproval; deterioration in personal hygiene; excessive writing or childlike printing with no clear meaning; flat, expressionless gaze; and peculiar use of language.
There is no cure for schizophrenia. For now, anti-psychotic medication can control symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations, but lack of motivation and blunted emotions may not respond as well to medication.
Hopefully, in time we will come up with treatments that can stop disease progression or reverse damage caused and restore people to full functioning. Continued research is needed until we can reach this goal.
In the meantime, if you are concerned for yourself or a loved one, speak with your doctor about options available now.