Schizophrenia Caused By Protein Buildup In The Brain, New Research Says

For years, scientists have been fixated on the idea of genetic and environmental  factors influenzing the development of schizophrenia, but with not much fruition and clarity. A new study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University used human brain tissue samples donated upon death for medical purposes.

According to Medical Express, the interesting finding was the similarities of protein buildup in the brain to other cognitive conditions such as Alzeihmer’s disease and Huntington’s disease. Schizophrenia is another brain condition that was mainly discussed in the study and it is said to affect 200,000 American citizens every year. 

Hence, the researchers tried to figure out sub classifications of the debilitating mental illness characterized by jumbled thought processes and hallucinations. One of the categories was the unpatterned accumulation of abnormal proteins in the brain.

The study was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry on June 6. The lead author, Frederick Nucifora Jr., an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University's School of Medicine said that schizophrenia only results in mental and behavioural changes and surprisingly does not cause neuronal cell death, which actually occurs in Alzheimer's disease. He and his team found similarities in the biological changes and interactions, nonetheless. 

Harvard Brain Tissue Center, University of Pittsburgh and University of Texas provided 42 brain samples from people aged 45 on average and who were diagnosed with schizophrenia. These were then compared to 41 healthy brains. 

The team split the brain cells wide open and tried to dissolve the contents in a detergent,  for the dissolvability determines the health quotient of the cell. It was found that the cell contents that were unable to dissolve indicated huge quantities of abnormal proteins and unsychronized brain molecules. This is the similarity shared with other neurodegenerative diseases that the scientists were trying to prove. 

The researchers identified 20 brains of schizophrenic people that had more proteins and that were not able to dissolve in detergents, consequently. In comparison to the healthy brain controls, ubiquitin, a small protein, indicated that there's protein buildup in neurodegenerative conditions. It was also found to be at an alarming level. 

The researchers also cleared up another issue. Taking antipsychotic medication did not lead to protein buildup in the brains of schizophrenics prior to death. It was the disease itself that independently led to high ubiquitin levels. Nucifora and his team further proved that the abnormal proteins were associated with the nervous system, thus undoubtedly forming the link. 

The team pioneered a novel method to study brain biopsies of the mentally ill by using nose tissues of living human beings. They want to also investigate the relationship between the symptomatic variations of schizophrenia and abnormal protein buildup. In addition, they plan to study the commonalities regarding brain protein with other psychiatric disorders.  

Schizophrenia John Hopkins University's School of Medicine has found similarities to Alzheimer's disease in terms of the protein build up and accumulation in the brain. Photo courtesy of Pexels/Public Domain