New Research in Schizophrenia Treatment
Being a biological scientist by training with graduate work in psychology, and having developed schizophrenia over fifty years ago at the age of thirteen, I was thrilled to see the article in the February 24, 2008 issue of The New York Times by Alex Berenson concerning the initial success of researchers in treating schizophrenia using compounds that moderate the concentrations and effects of the synaptic neural transmitter glutamate. Dr. Daryle D. Schoepp and his coworkers are to be commended. Their discoveries could well prove to be a significant milestone in the development of more efficacious medications for use in the treatment of schizophrenia
I first read about the potential of such medications in an article entitled Decoding Schizophrenia by Daniel C. Javitt and Joseph T. Coyle in the January 2004 issue of Scientific America. I next found mention of the prospects in an article entitled Molecular Mysteries by Melinda Wenner in the December 2007 Supplement of The Scientist that was devoted to schizophrenia.
It takes a great deal of courage to be the first in funding research on entirely new classes of medications. The risks and costs involved in finding and getting a successful new medication to market are staggering. [See my two SharePosts on the subject entitled Drug Prices - Part I and Drug Prices - Part II.]
Most, if not all, antipsychotics on the market today have mechanisms of action that primarily affect the levels of dopamine in the frontal cortex where this neurotransmitter is common. The therapeutic effect is to curtail or eliminate the positive symptoms of schizophrenia, i.e., hallucinations, delusions of grandeur and paranoia, and so forth. The passive symptoms of schizophrenia, such as impaired cognitive functions and affect, are largely unaffected.
The potential significance of pharmaceuticals that act on glutamate and related receptors NMDA and AMPA which appear throughout most of the brain is that for the first time there is promise for developing singular medications that will mitigate not only the positive symptoms of schizophrenia but the negative symptoms as well. An interesting footnote to all of this is that glutamate has been found to be involved in regulating the concentrations of dopamine in the frontal lobes.
The work of Dr. Schoepp and others may anticipate the development of important new medications designed to mitigate the full range of symptoms typical of schizophrenia, thereby eliminating an enormous amount of suffering. But their work is not the end-all of research on schizophrenia. We still do not fully understand the etiology of this illness or illnesses, nor do we have definitive laboratory tests of any sort for use in diagnosis, let alone an outright cure.
For examples of some of the types of research being done with the objective of discovering the causes of schizophrenia, as well as vaccines and cures, see my SharePost entitled: Interview with E. Fuller Torrey, M.D.
Please remember, this writing reflects my own experience and opinions. If you, or a loved one, are experiencing the symptoms of schizophrenia, or any other mental illness, you should seek professional assistance.