Lack of key protein is one of the reasons behind Schizophrenia
Researchers used an advanced imaging technique called PET to detect the lack of key proteins in people with Schizophrenia.
New research has found a key protein lacking in patients with Schizophrenia. A protein cell that helps brain cells in communicating. The protein might be helpful in finding potential treatments of the disease. But, first, let's understand the disease and the new findings in detail:
What is schizophrenia?
According to WHO, schizophrenia is a chronic mental disorder that brings distortions in thinking, perception, emotions, language, sense of self and behaviour. Patients also experience hallucinations, have fixed, false beliefs and hear voices or see things that are not present or real.
Around 20 million people are affected by schizophrenia globally and more than 1 million people suffer from the disease in India.
What causes schizophrenia?
A single reason has not been identified for the cause of the disease. It can occur because of interaction between genes, environmental factors and Psychosocial factors.
Scientists also think that lack of 'grey matter', a part of the brain that contains nerve cells is one of the factors involving the diseases. Lack of secretion of biochemicals in the brain is also considered one of the reasons.
Tracking the protein:
The new study by researchers from Imperial College London and King’s College London suggests that the patients lack a key protein called SV2A (synaptic vesicle glycoprotein 2A).
The new study used a new advanced imaging technique called PET to detect these changes.
The technique uses radioactive tracers that are injected into the body. These tracers highlight the presence of these proteins. Earlier, scientists used to study the brain indirectly by looking into the tissues of the brain of a deceased patient or using animal models.
The team of researchers scanned 18 adults with schizophrenia and compared it, other healthy adults.
For the first time, scientists used a radioactive tracer that binds to the SV2A (synaptic vesicle glycoprotein 2A) protein and highlights their presence. The analysis of the observations suggests that patients with schizophrenia revealed that the front part of the brain involved in planning contained lower levels of SV2A.
The lead author and professor Oliver Howes said: “Our current treatments for schizophrenia only target one aspect of the disease – the psychotic symptoms – but the debilitating cognitive symptoms, such as loss of abilities to plan and remember, often cause much more long-term disability and there’s no treatment for them at the moment. Synaptic loss is thought to underlie these symptoms."
“Our lab at the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences is one of the few places in the world with this new tracer, which means we’ve been able for the first time to show there are lower levels of a synaptic protein in people with schizophrenia. This suggests that loss of synapses could underlie the development of schizophrenia,” he added.
Another researcher, Dr Ellis Onwordi, says: “Having scans that can characterise the distribution of the approximately 100 trillion synapses in the living brain, and find differences in their distribution between people with and without schizophrenia, represents a significant advance in our ability to study schizophrenia.”
Professor Howes says: “Next we hope to scan younger people in the very early stages to see how synaptic levels change during the development of the illness and whether these changes are established early on or develop over time.”