Protein Associated With Alzheimer's Disease Also A Key Player In Schizophrenia; How Are The Two Diseases Related?

First Posted: Oct 20, 2016 05:50 AM EDT

A new study, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, has found that a specific protein involved in the cognitive decline in Alzheimer's disease also play a significant role in the genetic predisposition to schizophrenia. This means that any drug targeting the said protein can be key in treating various kinds of neuropsychiatric disorders.

According to Science Blog, Yale researchers have been studying the role that the STEP (STriatal-Enriched protein tyrosine Phosphatase) protein STEP (STriatal-Enriched protein tyrosine Phosphatase) protein has in making sure that the synapses, the connections between brain cells, function healthily.

The report also stated that excessive amounts of STEP protein were found in the brains of humans and animal models of Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, fragile X syndrome, and schizophrenia. The increased amount of STEP leads to a disruption of synaptic function and add to the cognitive problems present in the mentioned neurodegenerative disorders.

The research, led by Yale's Paul Lombroso, the Elizabeth Mears and House Jameson Professor in the Child Study Center and professor of neurobiology and psychiatry, and Kristen Brennand at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, showed an experimental drug created specifically to inhibit the STEP protein to restore cognitive deficits in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease in their previous work. In the new paper, wrote that Lombroso showed that genetically getting rid of STEP or using a drug to restrict STEP activity improves cognitive deficiency that has behavioral features related to schizophrenia.

Another team led by Brennand also found increased levels of STEP in human stem cells derived from skin cells taken from two groups of patients with schizophrenia. A STEP inhibitor applied to those human stem cells fixed some biochemical and electrophysiological inadequacy that characterized these abnormal cells. Medical Xpress also reported that although the drug used in the earlier Alzheimer's experiments has shown how difficult it is to be developed for clinical use, Lombroso said he and colleagues at Yale (professors Eric Ellman in chemistry and Angus Nairn in psychiatry) are working on  new STEP inhibitors and, if successful, these may have more practical therapeutic value.

"These findings suggest that a STEP inhibitor, when discovered, may be the basis of a new drug that can treat a number of neuropsychiatric disorders," Lombroso said.

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