A team of researchers have found that persons with schizophrenia may have lower levels of certain specific proteins that show up on their brain scans. This could help as diagnostic tools, say experts. The new study titled, “Synaptic density marker SV2A is reduced in schizophrenia patients and unaffected by antipsychotics in rats ”, is published in the latest issue of the journal Nature Communications .
The study from the Medical Research Council (MRC) London Institute of Medical Sciences shows that certain proteins are needed in the brains of normal persons to form connections between neurons. These proteins are found to be depleted in brains of persons with schizophrenia.
The experts suggest that lack of effective neuronal connection within the brain due to lack of this protein could be one of the reasons why certain cognitive difficulties are seen in persons with schizophrenia. Assessment of this protein could not only open doors to new diagnostic methods, explain researchers, but also provide therapeutic targets for development of drugs for treatment of this dreaded mental illness. PET brain scans showing that 18 healthy volunteers (right) have on average higher levels (shown by yellow-red) of synapse marker protein SV2A than 18 participants with schizophrenia (left). Image Credit: E. Onwordi at MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences
Experts have explained that in patients with schizophrenia there are damaged or dysfunctional connections between nerves or synapses. These synapses are vital when it comes to transmission of electric signals within the brains. These problematic synapses could be half understood only from brains obtained after death of a person with schizophrenia, they wrote. There was no way a living person with schizophrenia could be studied using scans that could show the damaged synapses. Animal models that showed the damaged synapses were not close to human brains.
In this study the team looked at PET brain scans of humans with schizophrenia after having injected them with a tracer drug. This tracer would emit signals to the scanning device and the real time image of the brain could be captured. This tracer was prepared in a manner so that it could bind to a specific brain protein called the SV2A (synaptic vesicle glycoprotein 2A). the protein has been shown to be present in abundance at the synaptic nerve endings wrote the researchers.
The team included 18 adult patients with schizophrenia and 18 adults who did not have the condition. Using the tracer and the PET scans of the brain the team looked at the density of SV2A within the brains of the persons with schizophrenia compared to normal persons. Results revealed that persons with schizophrenia contained lower amount of SV2A in their frontal cortex (FC) and anterior cingulated cortex (ACC) regions of the brain. These areas are commonly involved in thought and cognitive abilities as well as planning wrote the researchers. They also added that other regions of the brain including “dorsolateral prefrontal and temporal cortices and occipital lobe” also showed lower SV2A levels. Related Stories
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