A factor that helps optimize brain formation and function may also provide clues about whether patients suffering with schizophrenia are headed toward relapse, researchers say.
Over the next two- and one-half years, they are regularly measuring levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, in the blood of patients with schizophrenia to see if the pattern of their rise and fall is a good indicator that patients are headed for trouble, say Medical College of Georgia researchers.
"If you had something that would give you a better inkling that somebody is going to get ill, that would be extraordinarily helpful," says Dr. Peter S. Buckley, schizophrenia specialist who chairs the Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior in the MCG School of Medicine. "It's a little bit of a shot in the dark, but the payoff would be huge," he says of the study that piggybacks on another federally-funded study looking at whether injectable medicine, rather than tablets, can help deter relapses.
Not taking their medicines as prescribed is a big reason patients relapse but science has already shown that BDNF levels can start dropping even when they do, says Dr. Anilkumar R. Pillai, MCG neuroscientist who studies BDNF and other cell-nourishing trophic factors. That drop likely indicates the drug is becoming less effective and a relapse is imminent, the researchers say.
Decreased BDNF levels already have been associated with relapsing bipolar disease and depression, Dr. Buckley says. Dr. Pillai and others have shown that the BDNF levels in patients with schizophrenia are generally lower than in healthy individuals, an indicator of its importance in this disease, he says. BDNF levels may be even lower in patients when they relapse and go up, at least for a while, with treatment.
"Theoretically, at least, if you could know the point when BDNF levels start going down, you might change the treatmentthat's at least one approach for
|Contact: Toni Baker|
Medical College of Georgia