Biomarker Identified for Treatment-Resistant Schizophrenia

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Researchers have discovered a genetic biomarker that may potentially identify patients with schizophrenia who are resistant to certain antipsychotic drugs, making it possible for them to be treated with medications that work sooner.

About 30% of people with schizophrenia are considered treatment-resistant.

Herbert Meltzer, MD, and Jiang Li, PhD, both with Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, conducted a genome-wide association study on 174 patients with schizophrenia, of which 79 were identified as treatment-resistant — meaning they had failed to improve on at least two antipsychotics.

In the treatment-resistant group, the scientists discovered a mutation in a gene known as dopa decarboxylase that is involved in the production of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin in the brain, the pair reported in the journal Schizophrenia Research.

While treatment-resistant patients are often treated with clozapine with success, valuable time can be lost as clinicians try different combinations before settling on clozapine. That drug is often considered a later option due to potential side effects and a requirement for weekly blood monitoring.

“This biomarker can be used to easily identify patients who should be treated with clozapine, avoiding the use of drugs that are not able to help them,” Meltzer said in a statement. “This can be life-saving.”

NIH Discovers New "Genomic Variants" in Schizophrenia
Biomarker Identified for Treatment-Resistant Schizophrenia

Researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine have discovered a genetic biomarker that could help identify schizophrenia patients who are resistant to antipsychotic drugs, who account for about 30 percent of all such patients.

In the treatment-resistant group, the researchers found a mutation in the dopa decarboxylase gene, which is involved in the production of dopamine and serotonin. Certain variations of this gene have been linked to psychosis in previous studies.

Many patients who were once treatment-resistant do eventually respond to a drug called clozapine. However, it's usually not administered in early treatment stages due to potentially severe side effects and required weekly blood monitoring. 

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