HomeLifestyleHealth & FitnessYour Immune System May Be Hiding Schizophrenia's Secrets - New Research

Your Immune System May Be Hiding Schizophrenia’s Secrets – New Research

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Schizophrenia is a mental illness that affects how people act, think, and experience reality. As there are so many distinct causes and symptoms, it’s often difficult to cure.

In a paper published in Cell Reports Medicine, experts from Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU) detected an autoantibody — a protein created by the immune system to attach to a specific material from the individual’s own body — in some schizophrenia patients.

When scientists administered this autoantibody to mice, they discovered that it triggered schizophrenia-like behaviors and brain abnormalities.

When researching potential autoantibodies that could cause schizophrenia, the study team had a specific protein in mind. Previous study has suggested that NCAM1, a protein that helps brain cells communicate with one another via specialized connections known as synapses, may have a role in the development of schizophrenia.

“We decided to look for autoantibodies against NCAM1 in around 200 healthy controls and 200 patients with schizophrenia,” says Hiroki Shiwaku, the study’s lead author. “We only found these autoantibodies in 12 patients, suggesting that they may be associated with the disorder in just a small subset of schizophrenia cases.”

The researchers didn’t stop there; they wanted to see if the autoantibodies could cause any of the alterations seen in schizophrenia patients, so they purified autoantibodies from some of the patients and injected them into mice’s brains.

“The results were impressive.  Even though the mice only had these autoantibodies in their brains for a short time,” according to Hidehiko Takahashi, senior author, “they had changes in their behavior and synapses that were similar to what is seen in humans with schizophrenia.”

Mice with patient autoantibodies displayed cognitive impairment and alterations in their startle reflex modulation, both of which have been observed in earlier animal models of schizophrenia. They also exhibited fewer synapses and dendritic spines, which are critical components for brain cell interactions that are also damaged in schizophrenia.

Given that schizophrenia can manifest itself in a variety of ways and is frequently resistant to therapy, the findings of this study are encouraging. If autoantibodies to NCAM1 are found to be the cause of schizophrenia in some people, this will lead to significant advancements in their diagnosis and treatment.

Image Credit: Getty

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