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Brain immune cells as treatment targets for schizophrenia

Neuroscience Research Australia

Grant:
  • Schizophrenia Research Grant
Date Funded:
  • 29 July, 2022
Chief Investigator/s:
  • Dr. Tertia Purves-Tyson

Project Summary

The intent of this study is to determine if microglia can be targeted by interventions to improve or prevent all symptoms of schizophrenia.

What is the issue for NSW?

Schizophrenia is a debilitating mental disorder that impacts 1% of the population and has devastating effects on those with the illness and their families. People with schizophrenia have a reduced life expectancy of about 20 years less than the general population, and a suicide rate 12 times higher.

Current schizophrenia treatments only work for some people, and only treat psychosis (hallucinations, delusions). Current schizophrenia treatments do not treat cognitive problems that can prevent people with schizophrenia from holding down a job. They do not treat ‘negative symptoms’ (i.e. the lack of something e.g. social skills) that create difficulty socialising, forming relationships, and lead to social isolation. We do not understand the processes in the brain that cause the symptoms defined as schizophrenia, therefore we don’t know how to treat them.

New treatments that enhance the quality of life and improve the outcomes for people with schizophrenia are much needed. Increasing our understanding of schizophrenia neurobiology is essential to developing treatments that address all schizophrenia symptoms and not just psychosis.

What does the research aim to do and how?

This research will expand knowledge of the neurobiology of the symptoms of schizophrenia. We will identify neuroinflammatory pathways in microglia, the main immune cells in the brain, in a part of the brain that’s critical to all three symptom domains. Using pre-clinical models these neuroinflammatory pathways will be targeted with potential new drugs.

We aim to discover new fundamental knowledge of molecular targets for the development of new treatments for schizophrenia.