Study finds way around schizophrenia drug side-effects

ELEANOR HALL: Australian researchers have found a way to reduce the debilitating side-effects of schizophrenia drugs, which can cause tremors and shaking.

Researchers at the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Science say dialling down the protein which causes the symptoms instead of blocking it completely is a more effective approach.

Stephanie Smail reports.

STEPHANIE SMAIL: About 230,000 people are affected by schizophrenia in Australia.

The most effective treatment for the disease was developed decades ago and can have crippling side-effects.

Dr Rob Lane is one of the lead researchers in a study that has looked at ways around that.

ROB LANE: By blocking the D2 receptor, which is also involved in other important body functions such as movement, these medicines can lead to some significant side-effects, such as even Parkinson-like symptoms.

And what we thought was perhaps we could attack this problem in a slightly different way by trying to find drugs that instead of blocking this receptor just act to kind of tune down the action of this protein, kind of like a dimmer switch.

STEPHANIE SMAIL: The Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences says Italian researchers were the first to flag the idea of using an existing treatment to dial down the dopamine D2 receptor, instead of blocking it.

Dr Lane says his study has confirmed the treatment works to do just that.

ROB LANE: So what we’ve done is taken a published and disclosed drug, found its got a different mechanism that actually might be beneficial, and now we’re at the starting point where we can, because of this new idea of how it works, we can start to develop better derivatives of this drug that hopefully it will end up as an effective anti-psychotic drug.


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