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Schizophrenia: Latest Medical Breakthroughs

Tuesday, 09 Nov 2010 04:09 PM

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that affects thought, perception, decisions, and behavior. It has so far remained incurable, partly because the exact cause of the condition is not known. Several doctors attribute the disease to genetic factors and to birth and gestational complications.  Newer treatments, however, are now being researched, and the following represent the latest medical breakthroughs:
  1. Until recently, patients experienced a range of severe side effects due to antipsychotic medication. However, new drugs like INVEGA (paliperidone) extended-release tablets are now approved for patient use by the FDA.
  2. Another medical breakthrough has been made thanks to research on neural pathways at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Strong neural networks are essential to logical thinking. A brain protein, Kalirin, is required to boost the formation of neural networks. Lab tests at Feinberg have found schizophrenics have a very low level of Kalirin, and this has lead to treatment research involving replacement of the Kalirin protein.
  3. Recent research has indicated most schizophrenia symptoms are due to genetic mutations on the SHANK3 gene. This finding is a strong medical breakthrough that presents the possibility of finding a cure for the disease.
  4. Healthy brain cells can communicate with and pass messages to one another. They do this with the help of a Metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 (mGluR5), which relays these messages. Symptomatically at least, patients suffering from schizophrenia (and even Parkinson’s disease) would be better off if it were possible to increase the receptor’s power to send signals and messages from one cell to another. Scientists at Rockefeller University have done just that: they have identified a protein, named Norbin, that interfaces directly with glutamate, a neurotransmitter that plays a critical role in memory and learning, by helping the process that brain cells use to send messages to one another.

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