Schizophrenia Biomarkers Can Be Found In Human Hair, Study Says

Scotland's First Minister and Scottish National Party (SNP) leader, Nicola Sturgeon, visits a life science laboratory on August 9, 2017 in Glasgow, Scotland.
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A new study published in EMBO Molecular Medicine suggests that hydrogen sulfide, a schizophrenia biomarker, can be detected in human hair, Newsweek reports.

The team of Japanese researchers behind the study first examined mice with high or low prepulse inhibitions, which is a neurological phenomenon in which an organism is less scared by a strong reflex-inducing stimulus — often a sound — after it is exposed to a weaker stimulus. Research suggests that people with schizophrenia have lower prepulse inhibition, which means that their reaction to the strong stimulus remains high despite exposure to a weaker one.

In the study, the mice with lower prepulse inhibitions showed higher expression of an enzyme that creates hydrogen sulfide, as well as higher levels of the gas. When the team reduced the amount of the enzyme in question, they improved their prepulse inhibitions, which pushed them to see if similar results could be observed in humans.

The team found that in the post-mortem brains of people with schizophrenia, the enzyme was expressed in higher amounts in those with worse symptoms than in brains of people without the condition. In addition, when studying 149 people with schizophrenia and 166 without it, the team found that levels of hydrogen sulfide-producing enzymes were more expressed in some people in the former group than the latter.

According to study co-author Takeo Yoshikawa, drugs used to treat schizophrenia today were created over 100 years ago and only work on approximately 30 percent of patients. Regardless, he claims that pharmaceutical companies have abandoned the search for new drugs.

“Our study is expected to provide a novel paradigm for drug development. Inhibitors of hydrogen sulfide-synthesizing enzymes are hoped to be beneficial for the treatment of schizophrenia, at least those patients who are not satisfied with the current drugs.”

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As of now, there are nearly no biomarkers for schizophrenia and few tests that provide a definitive diagnosis of the mental health issue, which creates symptoms including delusions, audial and visual hallucinations, and disorganized thoughts.

“Nobody has ever thought about a causal link between hydrogen sulfide and schizophrenia. Once we discovered this, we had to figure out how it happens and if these findings in mice would hold true for people with schizophrenia,” Yoshikawa said, per EMBO Press.

Although schizophrenia is often stigmatized as experienced only by people who are homeless or destitute, not everyone struggling with the illness falls into such categories. As The Inquisitr previously reported, Aaron Carter recently revealed that he has schizophrenia, as well as bipolar and anxiety disorder.