A world-first study into schizophrenia, conducted by Queensland scientists, is being hailed as a major step towards gaining a better understanding of the psychiatric disorder, with the potential for the development of more effective treatments for sufferers.
Published in the journal Nature, the research was the world’s largest molecular genetic study into a psychiatric disorder.
Over three years, researchers compared 37,000 DNA samples of people with schizophrenia with more than 100,000 control samples.
One of the most important findings of the research linked schizophrenia to a region previously identified with auto-immune diseases.
As Professor Mowry explains: “Auto-immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis really come about through a failure of the body’s recognition that all of its own constituent parts belong to itself”.
“In a similar fashion we may be seeing at least some cases of schizophrenia being founded on an auto-immune disease mechanism.”
Professor Mowry also says that many of the sites that had the genetic underpinnings of schizophrenia were also found in brain tissue and states that the discovery has big potential to lead scientists to new treatments for schizophrenia.
“All of the available medications are thought to exert their main effects through the blockade of a particular brain receptor called a type two dopamine receptor. This mechanism was discovered 60 years ago”.
“What this work does is it opens up the potential to examine many different types of potential therapeutic targets in the brain and that’s what’s so exciting about this work.”
Scientists are not the only ones who are excited about the findings; sufferers of the disease are equally as pleased, as many of the current treatments for schizophrenia often fail to work and also come along with various side effects ranging from diabetes to constant lethargy.
Being the biggest breakthrough in 60 years, the results are certainly something to celebrate, however, there is still a way to go.