A team of scientists from China recently took it upon themselves to investigate an interesting idea related to the nature of schizophrenia. Some experts proposed a while back that the condition was the manifestation of a malfunctioning immune system, and the new research sought to prove that.
Most experts still agree that the condition is a brain disorder, but dissent on this issue is growing within the international scientific community. Newly emerging evidence appears to suggest that the condition is in fact caused by the immune system or that the latter at least plays a very important role.
As a mental disorder, schizophrenia is characterized by the presence of hallucinations and/or delusions, as well as a wide array of other unusual behaviors, which significantly reduce quality of life for both patients and caregivers.
Those who suffer from the condition experience distortions in their perception and interpretation of reality, and oftentimes suffer from paranoia and other associated conditions, PsychCentral
The disorder affects all genders, races, social classes and cultures, without discrimination, and pinpointing its exact causes has thus far proven to be extremely complicated. Its biological or genetic origins have remained shrouded in mystery.
Investigators from the Shanghai Jiao Tong University, led by experts Lin He and Chunling Wan, analyzed a total of 1,300 proteins in the bloodstreams of both healthy individuals and schizophrenics, and found 27 of these molecules to be different than normal in the second group.
All 27 proteins were a part of the complement system, which is made up of signaling pathway molecules that activate each other in a complementary manner. The result is the overall strengthening of the immune system.
“Further statistical and bioinformatics analysis indicated that a malfunction of the complement system may be involved in schizophrenia,” explains scientist Yang Li, a member of the Chinese research team.
“We can’t determine whether the alteration of complement pathways is a cause or effect of schizophrenia. The role of complement proteins in the development of the central nervous system also needs further exploration. That’s our future research work,” Li concludes.
This line of research has the potential to lead to the development of new classes of drugs and therapies for fighting schizophrenia.