Instance of schizophrenia have puzzled researchers for years as the causes and promising treatments have changed with better and more in-depth research. The latest findings in this area have implicated machinery that maintains the flow of potassium in cells and revealed a potential molecular target for new treatments.
Science Daily reported on an extensive series of experiments that suggested the selective inhibiting of this suspect form could help to correct disorganized activity that occurs in the brain of those suffering from schizophrenia. This treatment also removes the cardiac side effects associated with some existing anti-psychotic medications.
“The end game in linking genes with complex disorders like schizophrenia requires that we not only demonstrate statistical association, but also show how a gene version acts biologically to confer risk,” explained Daniel Weinberger, M.D., director of National Institute of Mental Health’s (NIMH) Genes Cognition and Psychosis Program, in the report. Dr. Weinberger led the research.
“We found schizophrenia-like effects in brain circuitry and mental processing in perfectly healthy people who carry the risk-associated version of this potassium channel gene, even though they don’t show any psychotic behavior.”
This study found evidence that schizophrenia actually stems from complex interactions between multiple genes and environmental factors. The genes of several candidates have recently been statistically linked to the illness in specific studies.
In this most recent study, the flow of potassium was regulated into the cell to control when neurons would fire or electrically discharge and release a chemical messenger that signals neighboring neurons in a circuit. The chemical messenger dopamine also helps to regulate the flow.
In this process, the Isoform 3.1 was identified as the key area of concentration as focusing just on the treatment of this specific gene could spare any heart-related side effects while also improving the disorganized neural firing characteristic of the brain in schizophrenia. This finding is expected to help create better treatments with less risk.