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A New Approach To Tackle Schizophrenia

Update Date: Aug 11, 2014 12:50 PM EDT

Researchers are working on a new mechanism of drug action that could lead to the next generation of drugs to treat schizophrenia. 

Schizophrenia affects nearly one percent of world's population. The condition affects the person's ability to think, feel and act. It is also associated with distressing symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions.

The study findings offer hope of a new class of drug that can act as a "dimmer switch" to control schizophrenia, without causing some of the common side effects associated with current anti-psychotic medicines, the press release added. 

"These medications frequently result in serious side effects because this protein is also important for the control of movement. The side-effects can sometimes persist even after the patient has stopped taking the medication," said one of the lead researchers of the study, Dr Rob Lane from the Monash Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS), in the press release. 

"The idea behind our research is to develop a drug that doesn't completely block dopamine. We found a molecule that, rather than blocking the effect of dopamine at the D2 receptor, acts to subtly dial down dopamine's effect, a bit like a dimmer switch," added co-lead researcher Professor Arthur Christopoulos. 

"This means that if we can get just the right amount of dial-down, we could treat the symptoms of the disease and avoid some of these side-effects. We're a long way yet from developing a drug, but our dimmer switch approach to controlling schizophrenia means it's conceivable we could have a whole new class of anti-psychotics in the future."

The study also found that the molecule's mechanism of action changed depending on the arrangement of the D2 receptor in the brain. 

Researchers have detailed the new approach in the journal Nature Chemical Biology. 

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