UAB has received two grants totaling $3.9 million from the National Institutes of Mental Health, one of the National Institutes of Health, in an effort to better understand schizophrenia and look for new targets for therapies. McCullumsmith is the lead investigator on one of the grants. James Meador-Woodruff, M.D., chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology, heads the other.
The target of both is glutamate, a major neurotransmitter in the brain. The tools are cutting-edge methodologies, including laser capture micro dissection – a device that can isolate specific cells for detailed analysis – and advanced proteomics techniques that study the function and structure of proteins. The goal is to better understand why there are profound deficits in glutamate signaling and processing in the brains of those with schizophrenia.
“We know that there is something wrong with the handling of glutamate in the brains of people with schizophrenia,” says McCullumsmith. “What we don’t know is just what is wrong. Is there too much glutamate? Too little? Is it in the wrong place at the wrong time? These studies will look for those answers, and hopefully come away with new targets in the brain for medications or other therapies.”
Schizophrenia is an especially troubling condition because it usually begins in young adults between the ages of 18 and 25.
“People who previously had demonstrated relatively normal development and are in the midst of going to college, starting a family or beginning a career suddenly have deterioration in function, including social and occupational skill sets,” says Meador-Woodruff. “They typically are unable to work and have a hard time maintaining interpersonal relationships.”
More financial and community resources go toward the care and treatment of schizophrenia than any other medical illness, says McCullumsmith, and it’s an equal opportunity condition, affecting all socioeconomic segments and populations.
There are medications available to treat what are called the “positive” symptoms of schizophrenia. Positive symptoms are manifestations that a patient has that they should not have, such as hearing voices and suffering from delusions and hallucinations. Those medications, some developed more than 50 years ago, have serious side effects. The older ones can cause movement disorders; the newer versions can spur obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
There are no medications that deal with what are called “negative” symptoms – manifestations a patient should have but does not. These include grasping the concept of non-verbal communication, motivation and even understanding the need for good grooming and hygiene.
Meador-Woodruff says there are also cognitive symptoms such as decline in memory, decision making and problem solving. Again, there are no medications to treat these symptoms.
“We need new treatments for schizophrenia,” says McCullumsmith. “People with schizophrenia are often homeless, unemployed and unemployable.”
In both trials, the researchers will compare brain tissue collected from patients with schizophrenia who donated their brains to brain banks, including the Alabama Brain Collection, a tissue repository managed by Rosalinda Roberts, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry at UAB.
Comparisons made between schizophrenic brains and normal controls may reveal changes in glutamate signaling, uptake or dispersal. Meador-Woodruff’s main focus will be on glutamate receptors on cells, while McCullumsmith’s project will look at the mechanism by which excess glutamate is removed from the brain.
“Schizophrenia is a disease that likely has many causes,” says Meador-Woodruff. “There is strong evidence that glutamate plays an important role in the development of the disease. Hopefully, these studies will help define that role and lead us to a better understanding of how to treat schizophrenia.”About UAB
EDITOR’S NOTE: The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is a separate, independent institution from the University of Alabama, which is located in Tuscaloosa. Please use University of Alabama at Birmingham on first reference and UAB on second reference.
VIDEO: www.youtube.com/uabnews TEXT: www.uab.edu/news TWEETS: www.twitter.com/uabnews
Bob Shepard | Newswise Science News
Amputees can learn to control a robotic arm with their minds
28.11.2017 | University of Chicago Medical Center
The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change
17.11.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.
Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...
Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...
Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong
Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
14.12.2017 | Health and Medicine
14.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
14.12.2017 | Life Sciences