Russian Scientists Can Now Diagnose Schizophrenia Early
Schizophrenia is a psychiatric disorder marked by the distorted perception or expression of reality and by a significant social or occupational dysfunction. The term schizophrenia comes from the Greek, and is roughly translated as shattered mind. That somehow doesn’t quite say enough, as this illness shatters the hopes, energies and dreams of all who orbit around the afflicted loved one as well. Chronic schizophrenia is hereditary and male descendants can inherit a genetic predisposition to this terrible disease.
According to news sources, Russian scientists have discovered the genotype, which refers to the genetic constitution of a cell. Latest studies reveal a certain protein called “brain-derived neurotrophic factor” (BDNF) that regulates the different aspects of the growth and development of neurons. BDNF is particularly linked to the brain’s synaptic (junction between two nerve cells) flexibility.
Researchers discovered that by replacing one amino acid on the protein’s molecule with methionine, the cellular distribution of the protein was disturbed. This indicates a low concentration of mature protein in different parts of the brain and as a result, neurons of the frontal cortex fail to function properly, which in turn causes the development of schizophrenia.
Since there is a genetic propensity concerning schizophrenia, experts have been trying for years to locate the specific genes, which increase a person's chances of developing this illness. Most studies, especially those performed on twins, have found that heredity is one of the strongest factors governing the development of this disease. If one of a set of identical twins who has been raised separately develops schizophrenia, the chances that the other twin will also develop it are 50%.
In addition to genetic causation, schizophrenia can be triggered by other factors although much is not known as to exactly how the trigger works. This could be the case with a traumatic head injury, for example. There have been numerous studies, which have indicated that viral infections may play a role in the development of schizophrenia. These would include: the poliovirus, the flu virus and a virus called encephalitis lethargica. In most cases, the psychological trigger of a stressful life event can lead to the onset of symptoms. It is a common albeit incorrect belief that drug use causes schizophrenia, although certain drugs may certainly cause a disturbance in the brain.
The question of how wrong protein forms concerns a gene responsible for BDNF synthesis, which is located on the 11th chromosome. Simply put, every human being has two copies of this gene, since one comes from the mother and the other from the father. Fellows of the laboratory of clinical genetics (the Center of Mental Health of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences) were the first to perform a massive study of allele frequencies for the BDNF-coding gene on Moscow residents. The study was comprised of 783 patients diagnosed with schizophrenia and 633 healthy volunteers.
Scientists are well aware that the development of schizophrenia is not dependant on just one gene. There have been many studies conducted in the past that have attempted unsuccessfully to uncover the exact cause of this disorder. Most of them concluded that the disease is polymorphous and that there are many possible causes which usually interact simultaneously. Many studies of people with schizophrenia have found abnormalities in their brain structure. This Russian study is nevertheless very significant because it allows for a test template, so to speak, for detection of the dreaded illness within a high-risk group. Early diagnosis can provide for immediate therapy.
There are many different potential outcomes of schizophrenia. The good thing is that most people with schizophrenia find that their symptoms improve with medication, and some achieve substantial control of the symptoms over time. Of course, it is also sadly true that some don’t. One thing is certain. The earlier the disease is detected, the better are the patient’s chances and that is why the results of this Russian study are so very important.
M Dee Dubroff