Autoimmune cause of schizophrenia discovered

Remarkably, they also found that the autoantibody caused schizophrenia-like behaviors and changes in the brain when they injected it into mice.

Schizophrenia: New discovery

When looking at autoantibodies that could cause schizophrenia, the team took note of a specific protein. Previous research has suggested that the neuronal adhesion molecule (NCAM1), which helps cells in the brain talk to each other through specialized connections called synapses, may have a role in development of schizophrenia.


“We decided to look for autoantibodies against NCAM1 in about 200 healthy controls and 200 schizophrenic patients,” explains lead study author Hiroki Shiwaku. “We found these autoantibodies only in 12 patients, suggesting that they may be involved in the disorder in only a small subset of schizophrenia cases.”

The team didn’t stop there – they wanted to know if these autoantibodies could cause any of the changes commonly seen in schizophrenia, so they purified the autoantibodies from some patients and injected them into the brains of mice.

“The results are impressive,” said Hidehiko Takahashi, senior author. “Even though the mice only had these autoantibodies in their brains for a short time, they had behavioral and synaptic changes similar to those seen in humans with schizophrenia. .”

Specifically, mice carrying patient autoantibodies experienced cognitive impairment and altered startle reflex regulation, both of which have been seen in other animal models of schizophrenia. They also had fewer synapses and dendritic spines, which are important structures for connections between brain cells, and are also affected in schizophrenia.

Because schizophrenia can present very differently between patients and is often resistant to drugs, the results of this study are promising. If schizophrenia is indeed caused by autoantibodies against NCAM1 in some patients, this would lead to important improvements in their diagnosis and treatment.

Source: Eurekalert

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