The studies are conducted by researchers in the Pharmacology Department of the Federal University of São Paulo's Medical School (EPM-UNIFESP), collaborating with colleagues at the University of Campinas (UNICAMP). An article on some of the findings has been published in the journal Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry.
Schizophrenia is a highly complex mental disorder with unknown causes and no cure. Pharmacological treatment consists basically of the administration of antipsychotic drugs that control symptoms and help the patient manage social interaction. First- and second-generation antipsychotics act on the nervous system, mainly by blocking two neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin, which play several important roles in the brain.
First-generation - Antipsychotics - Receptor - Blockers - Second-generation
First-generation or typical antipsychotics are dopamine receptor blockers. Second-generation or atypical antipsychotics block both dopamine and serotonin receptors. Some individuals with schizophrenia do not respond to typical antipsychotics and are considered treatment-refractory patients.
The group's latest study set out to determine at the molecular level why some patients respond to second-generation but not first-generation antipsychotics.
Patients - Levels - Activity - Enzyme - NDEL1
"Schizophrenic patients are known to have lower levels of activity of a specific enzyme called NDEL1 [nuclear distribution element-like 1]. The levels of activity are even lower in treatment-resistant patients," said Mirian Hayashi, a professor at EPM-UNIFESP and principal investigator for the study.
Hayashi explained that NDEL1 contributes to the degradation of neurotransmitters that play an important role in the brain's functioning. "In our study, we found that NDEL1 may be linked to the development of schizophrenia," she said.
Way - Action - Protein - Animals - Molecule
One way to characterize the action of a protein is to use animals that have been genetically modified so as not to express the molecule of interest. These are known as knockout animals.
"We normally use mice or rats as animal models, but in the specific case of our research on NDEL1, this isn't possible. Embryos of rodents that don't express NDEL1 aren't viable -- they don't...
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