Blocked enzyme reverses schizophrenia-like symptoms

March 20th, 2009 - 2:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, March 20 (IANS) Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that leads to hallucinations, delusions, poor social and emotional functioning and disorganised thoughts. It affects one in 100 people. Now researchers have found that by inhibiting a key brain enzyme in mice, they could reverse similar symptoms, which could open the way to new and better treatments.
The researchers, at the MIT Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, focussed on a gene known as DISC1, first identified in the 1990s in the course of studying the genetic makeup of a large Scottish family with mental and behavioural disorders.

DISC1 has since been shown to help new neurons grow in the developing brain, but its role was not well understood.

Now, Li-Huei Tsai, professor of neuroscience at the MIT, and colleagues have shown for the first time that DISC1 directly inhibits the activity of a brain enzyme called glycogen synthase kinase 3 beta, responsible for schizophrenic conditions.

Lithium chloride, the mood-stabilising drug often prescribed for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, also acts on this enzyme.

“This work for the first time provides a detailed explanation of how DISC1 functions normally in our brains,” said Tsai, director of the neurobiology programme of the Stanley Centre for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, said an MIT release.

These findings were published in Friday’s edition of the Cell.

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