Researchers from the University of Glasgow claim to have paved the way for a new ‘therapeutic approach’ to treating people who are living with genetic forms of schizophrenia.
According to reports, Scottish scientists believe that future treatments could tackle the condition with ‘pinpoint accuracy’.
The news comes after they developed a peptide which can help to stabilise a common brain protein known as DISC1 – which previous studies have found tends to be deficient in people with schizophrenia.
The University of Glasgow’s research claims that by targeting a protein known as FBXW7 – which typically ‘tags’ the DISC1 protein for destruction – they have found a way of counteracting DISC1 deficiencies.
This is achieved using an ‘inhibitory peptide’ designed to disrupt the interaction between the two proteins.
George Baillie, professor of molecular pharmacology at Glasgow University’s Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, explains: “My colleagues and I decided to look specifically at the DISC1 protein.
“Our idea was simple: what would happen if we could simply raise the concentration of DISC1 in patients’ brains?
“We looked at the turnover of DISC1 in the brain and found it was rapidly made and then degraded by brain cells.
“We thought, if we can stop the natural destruction of DISC1, people with low levels would see it naturally increase,” he said.
“Using our peptide, we can now restore DISC1 concentrations in psychiatric patient-derived brain cells back to the levels of control subjects.”
He added: “Many patients respond inadequately or adversely to current psychiatric medications, so the development of new drugs to treat mental illness is needed, but unfortunately no substantial innovations in drug treatments for these debilitating disorders have emerged in the last 60 years.
“We are hopeful that our peptide can be a stepping stone towards a novel therapeutic [treatment] in the future to counteract this unmet need.”