Molecular Scissors Could Treat Schizophrenia
Scientists have recently reported that faulty cleavage of a protein called neuregulin, or Nrg-1, forms the basis for the development of schizophrenia. The Nrg-1 protein is essential for the normal development of the nervous system and therefore the functioning of the brain. Any disturbance will lead to a disturbance in brain function.
If the Nrg-1 protein is to carry out its function properly it must first be cut in the correct way. This cut is usually undertaken by the equivalent of molecular scissors called Alpha1B/C-gamma-secretase. If the cut does not occur, it leads to behavioral disturbances in laboratory animals, which bear a striking resemblance to some of the symptoms of schizophrenia.
Researchers at the Flanders Institute for Biothechnology, VIB, and the University of Leuven, are suggesting that a disturbed cleavage of Nrg-1 plays a crucial role in the development of schizophrenia and related psychiatric disorders. This supports and extends previous research that has associated faults in Nrg-1 with schizophrenia.
Additional studies have shown that a genetic alteration near to the site of the Nrg-1 cleavage, which was found in people with schizophrenia and which increases the risk of the disease, also results in incorrect cleavage of Nrg-1 by the gamma secretase.
Dr Tim Dejkaegere, who is connected with VIB and the University of Leuven, has offered up the tantalizing prospect of a whole new class of drugs that would require them to take on the role of the missing molecular scissors. Dejkaegere suggests that if undertaken it would represent, “a radically new class of antipsychotic drugs.”