Two Genes Provide Clues for Schizophrenia Treatment

Abnormalities of two genes, BDNF and DTNBP1, have been linked to the underlying cause of schizophrenia, according to a new study.

The research, led by scientists from DUKE-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore, points to new treatment targets for the debilitating mental condition.

"We wanted to understand the mechanism by which the brain circuit operates," said senior author Shawn Je, from the Neuroscience and Behavioural Disorders Programme at Duke-NUS. "In particular, we wanted to understand the ability of a specific type of cell in the brain, termed interneurons, to modulate brain network activity to maintain a balance in brain signaling."

Abnormal brain circuitry in schizophrenia

While DTNBP1 and BDNF have been associated with schizophrenia risk in previous research, this is the first study to demonstrate that the two genes affect one another - and therefore overall brain network activity.

Reduced DTNBP1 levels have been linked to schizophrenia-like symptoms in mice, and the study found that low levels of the gene indeed resulted in disrupted neuronal network activity.

Reduced levels of DTNBP1 were also linked to lower levels of BDNF - which was associated with the abnormal circuit development and brain activity seen in patients with schizophrenia.

When levels of BDNF were restored, researchers found, brain activity normalized.

"In a follow-up study, Dr. Je plans to test if these findings are viable in an animal model," a statement on the study explained. "If proven successful, this could mean that correcting the imbalance within the brain circuits of schizophrenia patients may bring us closer to producing a treatment."

The study is published in Biological Psychiatry.

Source: DUKE-NUS GRADUATE MEDICAL SCHOOL SINGAPORE
Image courtesy of cooldesign/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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