Nose neurons used to diagnose schizophrenia
By testing olfactory neurons located in the upper part of the inner nose, scientists from Tel Aviv University in Israel suspect that they can provide a more accurate diagnosis of schizophrenia than had previously been available. Currently, the only accurate diagnosis method is by taking a brain sample during an autopsy, after the person has died. Instead, doctors rely on psychiatric and psychological tests, as well as interviews with the patient, family and friends. The scientists will focus on microRNA molecules in the nose when using this new method of testing.
In order to test their theory, doctors set up a research study. Olfactory neurons were collected from patients diagnosed with schizophrenia and from a control group without the disease. The scientists tested the neurons for microRNA molecules, which help regulate gene expression. The results indicated that nose neurons from schizophrenia patients had much higher levels of microRNA, which is known to be elevated in those with the condition.
The researchers hope that this new method of diagnosis could lead to a simple, quick and accurate test for a complex illness. Utilizing a small biopsy using local anesthetic would be a major change from the complicated testing used today. This breakthrough could lead to earlier diagnosis, which could set patients on an effective treatment plan earlier in earlier stages of the disease.