Findings are an important step toward understanding chemical basis for schizophrenia.
Using human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs), researchers at Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at UC San Diego have discovered that neurons from patients with schizophrenia secrete higher amounts of three neurotransmitters broadly implicated in a range of psychiatric disorders.
The findings, reported online today (Sept. 11) in Stem Cell Reports, represent an important step toward understanding the chemical basis for schizophrenia, a chronic, severe and disabling brain disorder that affects an estimated one in 100 persons at some point in their lives. Currently, schizophrenia has no known definitive cause or cure and leaves no tell-tale physical marks in brain tissue.
“The study provides new insights into neurotransmitter mechanisms in schizophrenia that can lead to new drug targets and therapeutics,” said senior author Vivian Hook, Ph.D., a professor with Skaggs School of Pharmacy and UC San Diego School of Medicine.
In the study, UC San Diego researchers with colleagues at The Salk Institute for Biological Studies and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, N.Y., created functioning neurons derived from hiPSCs, themselves reprogrammed from skin cells of schizophrenia patients. The approach allowed scientists to observe and stimulate human neurons in ways impossible in animal models or human subjects.