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Sniffing out schizophrenia
Date:4/29/2013

A debilitating mental illness, schizophrenia can be difficult to diagnose. Because physiological evidence confirming the disease can only be gathered from the brain during an autopsy, mental health professionals have had to rely on a battery of psychological evaluations to diagnose their patients.

Now, Dr. Noam Shomron and Prof. Ruth Navon of Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine, together with PhD student Eyal Mor from Dr. Shomron's lab and Prof. Akira Sawa of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, have discovered a method for physical diagnosis by collecting tissue from the nose through a simple biopsy. Surprisingly, collecting and sequencing neurons from the nose may lead to "more sure-fire" diagnostic capabilities than ever before, Dr. Shomron says.

This finding, which was reported in the journal Neurobiology of Disease, could not only lead to a more accurate diagnosis, it may also permit the crucial, early detection of the disease, giving rise to vastly improved treatment overall.

From the nose to diagnosis

Until now, biomarkers for schizophrenia had only been found in the neuron cells of the brain, which can't be collected before death. By that point it's obviously too late to do the patient any good, says Dr. Shomron. Instead, psychiatrists depend on psychological evaluations for diagnosis, including interviews with the patient and reports by family and friends.

For a solution to this diagnostic dilemma, the researchers turned to the olfactory system, which includes neurons located on the upper part of the inner nose. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University collected samples of olfactory neurons from patients diagnosed with schizophrenia and a control group of non-affected individuals, then sent them to Dr. Shomron's TAU lab.

Dr. Shomron and his fellow researchers applied a high-throughput technology to these samples, studying the microRNA of the olfactory neuron
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Contact: George Hunka
ghunka@aftau.org
212-742-9070
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Source:Eurekalert

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