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Method Evaluates Risk for Schizophrenia

testA new study suggests a protein found in immune cells may be a reliable marker for schizophrenia risk.

Schizophrenia is a severe and complex psychiatric illness that affects about 1 percent of the population. Diagnosis currently relies on subjective clinical interviews and the assessment of ambiguous symptoms, which frequently leads to delayed diagnosis and treatment.

As such, biomarkers that would indicate schizophrenia risk or onset would be extremely useful. The new proteomics study is found in the July issue of Molecular and Cellular Proteomics.

Sabine Bahn and colleagues sought to find such a “protein fingerprint” in the blood (due to its accessibility). They compared protein profiles of schizophrenia patients and controls using mass spectrometry and identified two peaks highlighting a significant change.

These were identified as alpha defensins, proteins responsible for killing microbes and viruses in the innate immune response.

Bahn and colleagues confirmed their findings by examining alpha defensin levels in the blood of 21 twin pairs discordant for schizophrenia (where one sibling manifests the disease while the other does not). In these twin sets, both siblings had significantly elevated alpha defensins as compared with a group of control twins.

Changes were also found in patients who were investigated soon after diagnosis, which means that higher levels of alpha defensins were not caused by medication or progression of the disease.

Because both discordant twins had elevated alpha defensins, these proteins do not indicate disease onset, but the researchers suggest they could be a useful and simple marker for evaluating schizophrenia risk. Although they believe that more markers will be needed in order to develop a sensitive and specific schizophrenia blood test.

Source: American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Method Evaluates Risk for Schizophrenia

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Method Evaluates Risk for Schizophrenia. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 22, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2008/07/11/new-method-evaluates-risk-for-schizophrenia/2594.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.