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Cell transplants may be a new treatment for schizophrenia

Posted on Tuesday, September 17, 2013 · Volume: XLVI · Issue: 19


The research of Daniel Lodge, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmacology, and doctoral student Stephanie Perez was published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.
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The research of Daniel Lodge, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmacology, and doctoral student Stephanie Perez was published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.clear graphic

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Contact: Will Sansom, 210-567-2579

SAN ANTONIO (Sept. 9, 2013) — Research from the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio suggests the exciting possibility of using cell transplants to treat schizophrenia.

Cells called “interneurons” inhibit activity within brain regions, but this braking or governing function is impaired in schizophrenia. Consequently, a group of nerve cells called the dopamine system go into overdrive. Different branches of the dopamine system are involved in cognition, movement and emotions.

“Since these cells are not functioning properly, our idea is to replace them,” said study senior author Daniel Lodge, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmacology in the School of Medicine.
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Transplant restores normal function
Dr. Lodge and lead author Stephanie Perez, graduate student in his laboratory, biopsied tissue from rat fetuses, isolated cells from the tissue and injected the cells into a brain center called the hippocampus. This center regulates the dopamine system and plays a role in learning, memory and executive functions such as decision making. Rats treated with the transplanted cells have restored hippocampal and dopamine function.

Stem cells are able to become different types of cells, and in this case interneurons were selected. “We put in a lot of cells and not all survived, but a significant portion did and restored hippocampal and dopamine function back to normal,” Dr. Lodge said.

‘You can essentially fix the problem’
Unlike traditional approaches to treating schizophrenia, such as medications and deep-brain stimulation, transplantation of interneurons potentially can produce a permanent solution. “You can essentially fix the problem,” Dr. Lodge said. “Ultimately, if this is translated to humans, we want to reprogram a patient’s own cells and use them.”

After meeting with other students, Perez brought the research idea to Dr. Lodge. “The students have a journal club, and somebody had done a similar experiment to restore motor deficits and had good results,” Perez said. “We thought, why can’t we use it for schizophrenia and have good results, and so far we have.”

The study is in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

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The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country’s leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving National Institutes of Health funding. The university’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced more than 29,000 graduates. The $736 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit www.uthscsa.edu.

 
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