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Medicineworld.org: Stopping Schizophrenia Before It Starts?

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Stopping Schizophrenia Before It Starts?




The onset of schizophrenia is not easy to predict. Eventhough it is linked to as a number of as 14 genes in the human genome, the previous presence of schizophrenia in the family is not enough to determine whether one will succumb to the mind-altering condition. The disease also has a significant environmental link.

As per Prof. Ina Weiner of Tel Aviv University's Department of Psychology, the developmental disorder, which commonly manifests in early adulthood, can be triggered in the womb by an infection. But unlike developmental disorders such as autism, it takes a number of years for the symptoms of schizophrenia to develop.



Stopping Schizophrenia Before It Starts?
Adult "schizophrenic" rats (middle) have larger lateral ventricles than those of normal rats (left), but become smaller after preventive treatment with clozapine in adolescence (right).

"Pharmacological therapys for schizophrenia remain unsatisfactory, so clinicians and scientists like myself have started to dig in another direction," says Prof. Weiner. "The big question asked in recent years is if schizophrenia can be prevented".

Revolutionizing the therapy
In their study, recently reported in Biological Psychiatry, Prof. Weiner and her colleagues Dr. Yael Piontkewiz and Dr. Yaniv Assaf sought to discover biological cues that would help trace the progression of the disease before symptoms manifested. "If progressive brain changes occur as schizophrenia is emerging, it is possible that these changes could be prevented by early intervention," she says. "That would revolutionize the therapy of the disorder.

"We wondered if we could use neuro-imaging to track any early-onset changes in the brains of laboratory animals," Prof. Weiner says. "If so, could these changes and their accompanying schizophrenia-like symptoms be prevented if caught early enough?".

Beyond a doubt
Prof. Weiner and her team gave pregnant rats a viral mimic known to induce a schizophrenia-like behavioral disorder in the offspring. This method simulates maternal infection in pregnancy, a well known risk factor for schizophrenia. Prof. Weiner demonstrated that the rat offspring were normal at birth and during adolescence. But in early adulthood, the animals, like their human counterparts, began to show schizophrenia-like symptoms.

Looking at brain scans and behavior, Prof. Weiner found abnormally developing lateral ventricles and the hippocampus in those rats with "schizophrenia." Those that were at high risk for the condition could be given drugs to treat their brains, she determined. Following therapy with risperidone and clozapine, two usually used drugs to treat schizophrenia, brain scans showed that the lateral ventricles and the hippocampus retained a healthy size.

"Clinicians have suspected that these drugs can be used to prevent the onset of schizophrenia, but this is the first demonstration that such a therapy can arrest the development of brain deterioration," says Prof. Weiner. She says that the drugs work best when delivered during the rats' "adolescent" period, several months before they reached full maturity.

Now, anti-psychotics are prescribed only when symptoms are present. Prof. Weiner believes that an effective non-invasive prediction method (looking at the developmental trajectory of specific changes in the brain), coupled with a low dose drug taken during adolescence, could stave off schizophrenia in those most at risk.


Posted by: Daniel    Source




Did you know?
The onset of schizophrenia is not easy to predict. Eventhough it is linked to as a number of as 14 genes in the human genome, the previous presence of schizophrenia in the family is not enough to determine whether one will succumb to the mind-altering condition. The disease also has a significant environmental link.

Medicineworld.org: Stopping Schizophrenia Before It Starts?

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