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Scripps Research scientists discover a brain cell malfunction in schizophrenia
Date:12/28/2011

eractions. "While many people thought this was lost, we were able to show that indeed these interactions are preserved in post-mortem brain, allowing us to carry out these studies," said Thomas.

Compared to healthy brains, the brain samples from subjects with schizophrenia showed lower levels of acetylation in certain histone portions that would block gene expression. Another critical finding was that in younger subjects with schizophrenia, the problem was much more pronounced.

Need for New Treatment Options

Just what causes the acetylation defects among schizophrenic subjectswhat keeps certain pages of the DNA guide closedisn't clear, but from a medical perspective it doesn't matter. If researchers can reliably show that acetylation is a cause of the problem, they can look for ways to open the closed guide pages and hopefully cure or improve the condition in patients.

Thomas sees great potential. Based on the more pronounced results in younger brains, she believes that treatment with histone deacetylase inhibitors might well prove helpful in reversing or preventing the progression of the condition, especially in younger patients. Current drugs for schizophrenia tend to treat only certain symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions, and the drugs have major side effects including movement problems, weight gain, and diabetes. If deacetylase inhibitors effectively treat a root cause of the disease and prove sufficiently non-toxic, they might improve additional symptoms and provide a major expansion of treatment options.

Interestingly, some of the cognitive deficits that plague elderly people look quite similar biologically to schizophrenia, and the two conditions share at least some brain abnormalities. So deacetylase inhibitors might also work as a treatment for age-related problems, and might even prove an effective preventive measure for people at high risk of cognitive decline based on family history or othe
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Contact: Mika Ono
mikaono@scripps.edu
858-784-2052
Scripps Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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