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Research findings about schizophrenia gene offer hope for better drugs

21.04.2006
A research team from Uppsala University and AstraZeneca has found that the schizophrenia gene QKI affects the production of myelin, the material that insulates nerve fibers. It is hoped that these findings will lead to enhanced treatment of schizophrenia. The findings are being published in the Net edition of PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) in mid-April.

The research group has previously shown that the QKI gene is a possible contributing cause of the disease schizophrenia. Now the scientists have found that QKI normally regulates the myelin genes, that is, the genes that govern the production of myelin, the insulation material for nerve fibers.

Moreover, the research team can show that the genetic expression of QKI is altered in schizophrenic patients and that the change correlates directly with the change in the myelin gene expression.

“In schizophrenics, fewer myelin proteins and less myelin are produced, we believe. Since myelin functions as an insulating substance around nerve fibers, impulse transmission is hampered in schizophrenics,” explains Elena Jazin.

The team of scientists has also seen that a variant of QKI called 7kb is the variant that changes most in schizophrenic patients. This 7kb also has a major effect on the expression of myelin genes in these patients.

“Just how the reduction of myelin affects the symptoms in schizophrenic patients is something we must investigate further,” says Elena Jazin.

It is hoped that the new findings will lead to improved treatment of schizophrenia in the future.

“We hope that existing drugs can be altered so that more patients will be helped and the side effects reduced. Perhaps the findings will also lead to new medicines. But this will require research and will take a long time,” says Elena Jazin.

Schizophrenia is one of the most common psychiatric public health disorders, affecting an average of one percent of the population of the world. Today’s methods of treatment can partially alleviate the symptoms, but many patients are not helped at all by them. Normally patients become ill between the ages of 15 and 30 and remain so for the rest of their lives.

The Uppsala University scientists in the research group are, besides Elena Jazin, Karolina Åberg and Peter Saetre. Niclas Jareborg has participated from AstraZeneca.

Linda Nohrstedt | alfa
Further information:
http://www.pnas.org/
http://www.uu.se

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