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Cancer treatment for 'schizophrenic' mice

4 August 2011

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Category: Research & medical benefits

black–lab–mice–mouse.jpgSchizophrenia is one of the most common serious mental health conditions in the UK, affecting 1 in 2000 people at some time in their lives. The illness is a long-term mental health condition that causes a number of psychological symptoms, including hallucinations and delusions.

Current treatments for schizophrenia include both psychological treatments such as psychotherapy, counselling or cognitive behaviour therapy and/or medication. However, many of the antipsychotic drugs or major tranquillisers used to treat or manage the illness have bad side effects.

Now researchers have found a molecular pathway that is affected during the onset of schizophrenia. In normal brain development a protein called Cdk5 is activated by an enzyme called p35. People suffering schizophrenia have approximately 50% less p35 in their brains and this changes their brain structure.

To explore the impact of p35, researchers genetically modified mice to produce less p35 enzyme. These mice exhibited schizophrenia-like symptoms including learning impairments and the inability to react to sensory stimuli. As they studied the molecular changes caused by the reduction in p35, they noticed the changes happened in molecules targeted by a cancer drug called MS-275.

They then administered this drug to the 'schizophrenic' mice and discovered that MS-275 alleviated the symptoms associated with schizophrenia. These exciting findings will encourage the future exploration of these types of drugs for treating schizophrenia.