The social behaviour of rats displaying schizophrenic tendencies is restored when they are treated with two new potential drugs that seem to have unique effects on dopaminergic signalling. This is a conclusion of a thesis from the Sahlgrenska Academy.
Schizophrenia is a severe psychiatric disorder with symptoms that include hallucinations and delusions. Other common effects are social withdrawal, lack of initiative, dulled emotions, and difficulty in experiencing pleasure.
“The treatment available for schizophrenic patients hardly ever relieves impairment of social function. If patients are to have satisfactory lives, we must find new drugs,” says pharmacologist Johan Rung, who has studied the two drug candidates, OSU6162 and ACR16.
In the studies, rats were given a type of drug known for inducing a schizophrenia-like state in humans, and this reduced the rats’ social behaviour. When the rats were given the two drug candidates, normal social behaviour was restored.
“This indicates that the two drugs can relieve the schizophrenic’s lack of ability to interact socially, and also have positive effects on a number of other symptoms thought to be caused by the same underlying mechanisms,” says Johan Rung.
In contrast to other drugs that only reduce dopaminergic signalling in the brain, the two new substances seem to be able to both reduce and strengthen the signalling, depending on the circumstances.
“This is a property that can be particularly beneficial in the treatment of schizophrenia. Different groups of symptoms can be linked to either elevated or reduced dopaminergic signalling in different parts of the brain,” says Johan Rung.
More years of research lie ahead before doctors can prescribe the new substances as drugs for their patients. An international drug company has recently started to test ACR16 on patients. The other substance, OSU6162, has also been tested on a small number of schizophrenia patients, and the results are promising.
Schizophrenia is a psychiatric disease that afflicts one percent of the population. There is no cure, but psychotic symptoms can be treated with psychopharmaceuticals. The onset usually occurs when people are in their twenties. The condition is often severe, and most patients never return to school or work.
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