Patient's own cells may help mind disorders
Philadelphia - Scientists reported on Wednesday that skin cells had become lab-dish tools for probing one of the most enigmatic and distressing disorders of the mind.
Researchers in the United States took samples of skin cells from schizophrenic patients and turned them back to a primitive, versatile state called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).
From this blank slate, the cells were cultured to become brain cells, enabling them to be used for lab-dish investigations into schizophrenia that can be tailored to the individual.
Gong Chen of Penn State University in Pennsylvania said: "By using this method, we can figure out how a particular drug will affect that particular patient's brain cells without needing the patient to try the drug and potentially suffer the side effects."
"The patient can be his or her own guinea pig for the design of his or her own treatment, without having to be experimented on directly."
Schizophrenia is a complex condition that is believed to have environmental as well as hereditary factors.
It is characterised by paranoid delusions and hallucinatory voices.
It's estimated that about 1% worldwide are believed to be afflicted by the disorder.
Tests found that lab-dish neurons from schizophrenic patients had fewer connections with each other compared to cells taken from healthy individuals.
The scientists then used commonly-prescribed anti-psychotic drugs to see whether this boosted communication between neighbouring cells. The only one that worked was Loxapine, although it also had an unexpected cascade effect on hundreds of genes.
The work is reported online in Nature, the British science journal.