Novel Drug Target Discovery May Lead To Better Schizophrenia Treatment

Novel Drug Target Discovery May Lead To Better Schizophrenia Treatment
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Scientists have identified a novel drug target that could lead to the development of better antipsychotic medications. The researchers published their results online in the journal Neuron.
Current treatment for patients with schizophrenia involves taking medications that block or interfere with the action of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which acts on dopamine D2 receptors in the brain. However, because this D2-blocking action may cause unwanted side-effects, such as slow gait, stiffness and tremor, researchers looked for new ways to interfere with the action of D2 receptors, without causing these side-effects. They showed that the D2 receptor could combine with a protein called the Disrupted-In-Schizophrenia (DISC1) protein. Then, they showed that levels of this combined protein were higher in post-mortem brain tissues of deceased patients with schizophrenia, suggesting it was associated with the illness. Delving even further, the researchers identified the regions where the two proteins bound together.
With this information, they were able to generate a peptide to disrupt the binding of the two proteins, speculating that it may reduce symptoms. In animal models of schizophrenia, they were able to demonstrate that this disruption led to antipsychotic effects, comparable to commonly used antipsychotic medications, but without their side-effects.
Future steps involve determination of how this discovery can be translated into a novel treatment for patients as soon as possible. The researchers are optimistic that the findings will lead to new and better options for treatment for schizophrenia.