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Scientists May Have Found A Way To Lessen Schizophrenia Symptoms

Update Date: Feb 10, 2017 09:24 AM EST

A team of researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine has recently discovered that altering the levels of a brain compound known as kynurenic acid or KYNA can significantly affect schizophrenic symptoms.

Published in Biological Psychiatry, scientists turned their attention at mice with low levels of an enzyme called kynurenine 3-monooxygenase and were able to trace a connection with cognitive impairment. People with schizophrenia, a long-term mental disorder involving a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behavior that may eventually lead to inappropriate actions and withdrawal from reality, apparently have high levels of kyuneric acid in their brain than normal.

According to UPI, KYNA which is a metabolite of the amino acid tryptophan and decreases glutamate is lower in people with schizophrenia. Researchers found that people diagnosed with schizophrenia have lower glutamate activity and an increased in the level of KYNA may be the contributing factor behind symptoms of schizophrenia which include cognitive issues.

Researchers led by Robert Schwarcz, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, studied mice that have low levels of kynurenine 3-monoxygenase or KMO that is considered important to determine the levels of KYNA.

The mice with low levels of KMO were observed to have impairments in contextual memory and spent less time interacting with unfamiliar mice in a social setting compared to the control group.

Experts used six schizophrenia-specific behavioral assays and were able to characterize the KMO-deficient mice. Scientists performed genome-wide analyses of the differential gene expression in the cerebral cortex and cerebellum of the rodents. Medical News Today reported that the analysis showed an increased KYNA levels in KMO-deficient mice, as expected.

It was also mentioned that during the maze and light-dark box tasks, genetically modified mice also exhibited increased anxiety-like behavior. Researchers also found higher levels of KYNA in the cerebellum than in the cerebrum.

The researchers also revealed that since increased anxiety, lack of desire to socialize, and context memory impairment are typical symptoms of schizophrenia, the present study suggests that KMO and KYNA are crucial factors in the disease. "This study provides crucial new support for our longstanding hypothesis. It explains how the KYNA system may become dysfunctional in schizophrenia," said Professor Schwarcz.

Schwarcz and his colleagues are also working to clarify if the study indeed has therapeutic implications. Increasing glutamate levels can have severe side effects, such as seizures and brain cell death, so the researchers hope to alter KYNA levels in a more precise and risk-free manner.

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