August 16, 2014
Dimmer Switch For New Class Of Schizophrenia Medication
Rayshell Clapper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Schizophrenia affects about one percent of the world’s population and, if untreated, leaves sufferers struggling with their relationships, jobs, and lives as a whole.
According to the National Institute of Mental Illnesses, schizophrenia is a debilitating brain disorder whereby those diagnosed with this mental illness “may hear voices other people don't hear. They may believe other people are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts, or plotting to harm them. This can terrify people with the illness and make them withdrawn or extremely agitated. People with schizophrenia may not make sense when they talk. They may sit for hours without moving or talking. Sometimes people with schizophrenia seem perfectly fine until they talk about what they are really thinking.”
Current explanations from the National Institute of Mental Illness show that schizophrenia is caused by two major factors: genes and environment and differing brain chemistry and structure. For the former, schizophrenia definitely runs in families with a 10 percent occurrence in those who have a first-degree relative with the disorder. First-degree relatives include parents and siblings. Those who have second-degree relatives – aunts, uncles, grandparents, or cousins — have a higher risk than others as well. And if one has an identical twin diagnosed with schizophrenia, that person has a 40 to 65 percent chance of developing the disorder.
But genes are not the only area of concern. “Scientists think interactions between genes and the environment are necessary for schizophrenia to develop. Many environmental factors may be involved, such as exposure to viruses or malnutrition before birth, problems during birth, and other not yet known psychosocial factors.”
As for brain structure and chemistry, current science believes than an imbalance in the chemical reactions of the brain further plays a role. Specifically, the chemical reactions involving the neurotransmitters dopamine and glutamate seem to contribute to schizophrenia. Moreover, the brains of those with schizophrenia look different than the brains of healthy people.
The existing treatment regimen relies heavily on antipsychotic drugs, but these come with a plethora of side effects including drowsiness, blurred vision, skin rashes, restlessness, and many more. These drugs can control the symptoms of schizophrenia but can also have a damaging effect on the quality of life through the side effects. These drugs work more like an “off button” to schizophrenia and many other daily actions and feelings.
Monash University researchers may have found an answer, however.
According to recent research led by Dr. Rob Lane of the Monash Institute for Pharmaceutical Studies and published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology, they have discovered a new class of drugs that work more like a “dimmer switch” to control schizophrenia instead of an off button that turns off much more than the symptoms of schizophrenia.
Co-author Professor Arthur Christopoulos explains the new class of drug: “The idea behind our research is to develop a drug that doesn’t completely block dopamine. We found a molecule that, rather than blocking the effect of dopamine at the D2 receptor, acts to subtly dial down dopamine’s effect, a bit like a dimmer switch…This means that if we can get just the right amount of dial-down, we could treat the symptoms of the disease and avoid some of these side-effects.”
The Monash team will continue their research by collaborating with chemists at MIPS to attempt developing a better version of the drug used in the study. With further development, this new class of drugs could help people diagnosed with schizophrenia control their illness while allowing them to avoid the negative side effects associated with schizophrenia.
If this new class of drugs can help those who suffer from schizophrenia at all, then it definitely needs development.