Stem Cell Research on Proteins Gives New Insights into Schizophrenia

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Stem cells in patients with schizophrenia produce new proteins more slowly compared to healthy people, a finding that researchers say may provide new approaches to drug therapies for the psychiatric disorder.

Alan Mackay-Sim, PhD, of the Eskitis Institute for Drug Discovery at Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia, and colleagues analyzed nearly 1000 proteins in schizophrenia patients’ stem cells. The rate of protein synthesis was greatly reduced in these patients, the researchers reported in the journal Translational Psychiatry.

Another study in the same issue of the journal, in which Mackay-Sim was also involved, examined another kind of stem cells generated from people with schizophrenia. However, that study came to the opposite conclusion: Schizophrenia patients’ stem cells were found to make proteins more rapidly than stem cells from healthy controls.

“However, while on the surface this seems like a contradiction, the two studies support each other by showing that the regulation of protein synthesis is subtly disturbed in the cells of people with schizophrenia,” Mackay-Sim said in a statement.

He added that the research shows that the “on/off switch” for protein synthesis may be changed in different cells or different life stages in schizophrenia. “This provides many ways in which brain development and function is altered in schizophrenia, and many routes for the ways in which genes and the environment interact to cause schizophrenia.”

Stem Cell Research on Proteins Gives New Insights into Schizophrenia
The production of proteins in stem cells in patients with schizophrenia is different from what is seen in healthy subjects.

Stem cells from adult schizophrenia patients form new proteins more slowly than those from healthy people, according to new research.

The findings are enhancing understanding of how schizophrenia affects the workings of the brain, and open the way to new approaches for future drug therapies.

Involving scientists from Griffith University's Eskitis Institute for Drug Discovery, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and University College Dublin, the research is published online in the journal Translational Psychiatry.

According to the Eskitis Institute's Professor Emeritus Alan Mackay-Sim, analysis of almost 1000 proteins in patients' stem cells indicated their cellular machinery for making new proteins was reduced, with the rate of protein synthesis greatly impaired.

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