A Systemic Look At Schizophrenia

FROM Chemical & Engineering News

Serving the chemical, life sciences and laboratory worlds January 18, 2010


Because schizophrenia is a psychiatric disorder, its physical manifestations must all be in the brain, right? Maybe not. Proteomic studies using cells from other parts of the body are showing that there might be a systemic aspect of the disorder. The ability to use non-brain cells to study schizophrenia could make it easier to find biomarkers of the disease and to develop diagnostic tools.


“The problem with psychiatric disorders is that you can’t take biopsies at different disease stages,” says Sabine Bahn, director of the Cambridge Institute for Psychiatric Research at the University of Cambridge. “Patients would not be too happy to have pieces of brain taken at different time points.”

Bahn and her colleagues are investigating disease markers in tissues such as skin, immune cells, and blood serum to find samples that give a real-time picture of the disease. Their studies of protein expression in fibroblasts (skin cells) on schizophrenia patients’ arms have identified systemic problems such as cell-cycle abnormalities (J. Proteome Res. 2010, 9, 521).

Bahn and her coworkers have seen that 40% of the changes observed in the brains of schizophrenia patients also occur in the peripheral systems. The affected pathways include cell replication, immune function, and glucose metabolism.

Bahn nevertheless believes peripheral-cell-based diagnostics will be useful. She and her coworkers have identified schizophrenia biomarkers in serum, and working with the company Rules-Based Medicine, located in Austin, Texas, and Lake Placid, N.Y., she expects that a serum-based test to aid in the diagnosis of schizophrenia will be launched sometime this year. 


While blood testing will not cure the disease, it moves the etiology to a new plane of consideration.  Many other genetically linked diseases have become targets for research into, and development of, new treatment.  Equally important it may effect the current level of stigma attached to the disease.

To view the entire article: http://pubs.acs.org/cen/science/88/8803sci1.html