Tuesday, July 23, 2024

A promising research breakthrough for the treatment of schizophrenia

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In recent years, there has been no significant progress in scientific research on schizophrenia, a disease that recently returned to the news following the murder of a nurse by a psychotic in France. .

Scottish psychiatrist Robin Murray, who has devoted decades of his life to researching the disease, says that “drug treatments haven’t changed radically” in the field for twenty or thirty years.

In France, the serious psychological disorder was highlighted after a man with schizophrenia attacked a nurse with a knife in the French city of Reims a few days ago. It is feared that such incidents may create a negative stigma for all patients.

“All the years of work to destigmatize this disease collapsed in 24 hours,” said psychiatrist Sonia Dollfuss, emphasizing the “extremely rare” nature of the work.

For the majority of schizophrenics, estimated by the World Health Organization to be one in 300 people worldwide, the disease poses a danger to the first sufferers, especially since the suicide rate among them is high (5%).

To a large extent, schizophrenia results in a wide range of disorders of varying severity from one patient to another, often leading to profound disruptions in personal and social life.

Treatment for this disease is also complex and usually combines medication, social rehabilitation assistance, and psychotherapy.

In this last case, follow-up has improved in recent decades, Murray says, pointing to a decline in psychoanalytic treatments considered ineffective or counterproductive in treating such psychotic disorders.

On the other hand, in the field of medicine, the situation has been the same for years. However, unlike other psychiatric disorders, particularly neurological disorders, medication is the cornerstone of psychotherapy for schizophrenia.

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However, “after the vacuum starting from the second decade of the current century, when the laboratories really stopped their investments in psychiatry (…), a real innovation trend is currently registered,” Dollfuss says.

The “hopeful” path

At present, concrete innovations are related to follow-up of patients, for example, the development of computer applications that facilitate communication with a psychiatrist and the pattern of taking medications that are already known.

So, in April, the US health authorities approved the treatment developed by the Israeli company “Teva” and the French “Metensil”. The molecule, first known to psychiatrists, is given by injection rather than orally.

Thus, the drug can be gradually released into the body over a few weeks, rather than requiring daily intake.

The challenge is to allow better monitoring of medications when many patients are forced to stop their regular treatment due to their disorders. According to various sources, this was the case with the attacker in Reims.

Although this is a promising improvement at the therapeutic level, we cannot talk about a revolution associated with the appearance of new molecules. But in this area too, progress finally seems possible.

“Drugs that are currently being investigated are very interesting because of their new activity,” Dollfuss explains.

The molecules currently used in schizophrenia basically boil down to one mode of action: they block the activity of dopamine, a molecule that has a central effect on the nervous system.

However, dopamine appears to play a complex role in schizophrenia—whether it’s too much in some cases or not enough in others—and these treatments, which are very effective against symptoms like hallucinations, don’t improve other aspects of the disease, like loss. preference or language..

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In the face of this observation, research is finally focusing on other molecules whose mode of action is broader by regulating dopamine transmission, rather than inhibiting dopamine transmission, while acting in parallel with other potential molecules in schizophrenia disorders.

With no immediate marketing in mind, research on these treatments, which specifically target a protein called TAAR1, is at an advanced stage: large-scale studies called “Phase III” are beginning. Record good results.

“It’s a very promising path,” Dollfuss concludes.

Nadia Barnett
Nadia Barnett
"Award-winning beer geek. Extreme coffeeaholic. Introvert. Avid travel specialist. Hipster-friendly communicator."

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