With no known cure, the last 50 years have seen little in the way of advancement for Schizophrenia. Characterized by a disconnection between thoughts, behaviors, and emotions, current treatments are focused primarily on reducing symptoms; including antipsychotics, which are ineffective for some patients and often carry significant side-effects.

Initially recognized by Medical News today, new research published in Molecular Psychiatry examined the potential role of novel proteins in the treatment of schizophrenia.

Conducted at the University of Glasgow, this new study focused on the protein “disrupted in schizophrenia 1” (DISC1). Used in variety of processes throughout the body — including regulation of cell proliferation, differentiation, migration, and nerve growth — DISC1 has been shown to maintain lower functioning numbers in those with hereditary schizophrenia.

The Study

During their study, researchers investigated the role of an F-box protein called FBXW7. F-box proteins have a role in labeling other proteins for the attention of enzymes; in the case of FBXW7, tagging DISC1 for elimination.

According to Professor George Baillie, a lead author of the study and professor of molecular pharmacology at the University of Glasgow, “We looked at the turnover of DISC1 in the brain and found it was rapidly made and then degraded by brain cells.”

With this data in mind, researchers attempted to determine whether preventing FBXW7 and DISC1 from interacting would cause DISC1 levels to increase?

“We thought, if we can stop the natural destruction of DISC1, people with low levels would see it naturally increase,” Professor George Baillie states.

To test their hypothesis, researchers added an inhibitory peptide to cells from patients with Schizophrenia in an attempt to prevent FBXW7 from breaking down DISC1. As hypothesized, the introduction of the inhibitory peptide reduced the breakdown of DISC1, allowing it to maintain normal functioning levels.

For individuals suffering from schizophrenia, this is great news. However, real-world applications for these findings could still be a long way off. “We are hopeful that our peptide can be a stepping stone toward a novel therapeutic in the future…” says Prof. Baillie, “we are hopeful that our research is the first step on a journey towards a potential new drug treatment option for a range of psychiatric illnesses.”

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