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Protein clue for schizophrenia origin

By Tim Sandle     Apr 14, 2014 in Science
Copenhagen - As part of a hunt for the causes of schizophrenia, researchers have analyzed proteins in the brains of rats that have been given hallucinogenic drugs.
By dosing rats with drugs, researchers were able to observe changes in the protein structure in the brains of the rats, according to PsychCentral.
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by a breakdown of thought processes and by impaired emotional responses. Common symptoms include delusions, such as paranoid beliefs; hallucinations and disorganized thinking. Because schizophrenia often runs in families, this suggests that the condition has an underlying genetic basis (with social and environmental factors also contributing).
Why use rats and hallucinogenic drugs? Rats are used for such studies because it is difficult to study brain activity in schizophrenic people. The strong hallucinogenic drug phenocyclidine (PCP), also known as "angel's dust," provides a range of symptoms in people which are very similar to schizophrenia. The symptoms and reactions that can be observed in both humans and rats are changes in movement and reduced cognitive functions such as impaired memory, attention and learning ability.
In all, the researchers found 2,604 proteins and in 352 of them, they noted changes associated with the PCP injections. These 352 proteins will be interesting to study in closer detail to see if they also alter in people with schizophrenia.
Based on the research, scientists believe that the trigger for schizophrenia lies in some specific, measurable proteins. Knowing these proteins and comparing their behavior to proteins in the brains of not-schizophrenic people may make it possible to develop more effective drugs.
The research was carried out at the University of Southern Denmark. The findings have been published in the International Journal of Proteome Research. The paper is titled “Acute Phencyclidine Treatment Induces Extensive and Distinct Protein Phosphorylation in Rat Frontal Cortex”.
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