The cold case of schizophrenia – broken wide open!

‘It is like they were miraculously healed!’’
Schizophrenia is diagnosed by clinical observation of behaviour and speech.
This is why NeuRA researchers are working hard to understand the biological basis of the illness.

Through hours of work and in collaboration with doctors and scientists here and around the world, NeuRA has made an amazing breakthrough. For the first time, researchers have discovered the presence of antibodies in the brains of people who lived with schizophrenia.
Having found these antibodies, it has led NeuRA researchers to ask two questions.

  1. What are they doing there?
  2. What should we do about the antibodies– help or remove them?

This is a key breakthrough. Imagine if we are treating schizophrenia all wrong!

It is early days, but can you imagine the treatment implications if we’ve identified a new biological basis for the disease? It could completely change the way schizophrenia is managed, creating new treatments that will protect the brain.
More than this, could we be on the verge of discovering a ‘curable’ form of schizophrenia?

How you can help
We are so grateful for your loyal support of schizophrenia research in Australia, and today I ask if you will consider a gift today. Or, to provide greater confidence, consider becoming a Discovery Partner by making a monthly commitment.
We believe there is great potential to explore these findings. Will you help move today’s breakthrough into tomorrow’s cure?
To read more about this breakthrough, click ‘read the full story’ below.

You are also invited to read ‘Beth’s story’, whose sweet son Marcus lived with schizophrenia, by clicking here.

Cold cases fascinate us.

There are hundreds of TV shows and podcasts dedicated to exploring both fictional and real life unsolved cases.

Cold cases can see little (or no) progress for decades, but when a new clue suddenly appears at the scene – like a strand of hair – there is renewed energy by investigators to solve it once and for all.

Medical research is no different and today we pose this question; have we identified a new clue in the cold case that is schizophrenia?

‘It is like they were miraculously healed!’’

Schizophrenia is diagnosed by clinical observation. There are no blood tests or scans available that will confirm someone is living with the disease, with a diagnosis given through observing behaviour and speech.

What you may not know is that sometimes people diagnosed with schizophrenia seem to recover… almost spontaneously. This has always intrigued researchers, with the book Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan even suggesting that autoimmune disease is often misdiagnosed as schizophrenia, because of the psychotic like symptoms seen.

This is why NeuRA researchers are working hard to understand the biological basis of the illness.

Masters student Lara Glass, under the mentorship of Prof Cyndi Shannon Weickert, is an enthusiastic young researcher. Through hours of work and in collaboration with doctors and scientists here and around the world, we at NeuRA have made an amazing breakthrough. For the first time, researchers have discovered the presence of antibodies in the brains of people who lived with schizophrenia. Having found these antibodies, it has led NeuRA researchers to ask two questions.

This finding challenges the idea that antibodies do not get into the brain and leads us to the first question – what are they doing there? In a criminal cold case, when a new clue is discovered, detectives will attempt to determine if this new lead is relevant or not.  It’s the same situation here – are these antibodies hurting or healing the brain in schizophrenia, or are they irrelevant?

To get at tackling the second question, we have to start by answering the first one. If we learn that these antibodies are there for healthy purposes, could we repurpose drug therapies and other interventions that already exist to give them a hand, boosting their efficiency?

If however we learn that these antibodies are there to harm, what can we do to redirect them away from the brain?

This is a key breakthrough. Imagine if we are treating schizophrenia all wrong!

The current gold standard in schizophrenia treatment is antipsychotic medication. While reducing psychotic symptoms like hallucinations and delusions, they do not restore one’s potential, have not improved for decades and because of the side effects such as diabetes and obesity, compliance is low.

This is something that Beth knows only too well. Schizophrenia stole the life from her sweet son Marcus, and her honest and brave story you can read here. If you love someone with schizophrenia, you may hear parts of your own story in hers.

It is early days, but can you imagine the treatment implications if we’ve identified a new biological basis for the disease? It could completely change the way schizophrenia is managed, creating new treatments that will protect the brain. More than this, could we be on the verge of discovering a ‘curable’ form of schizophrenia?

How you can help

Your support has made progress like this possible, with this exciting discovery adding to the evidence bag in the case of conquering schizophrenia.

However research is expensive. With adults living with schizophrenia dying at approximately three and a half times the rate of the general population, we must take the next step in our research, which is to understand how we might use these findings to create new treatments that protect the brain, allowing it to rest and heal.

We are so grateful for your loyal support of schizophrenia research in Australia, and today I ask if you will consider a gift today. Or, to provide greater confidence, consider becoming a Discovery Partner by making a monthly commitment.

We believe there is great potential to explore these findings. Will you help Lara and Prof Shannon Weickert move today’s breakthrough into tomorrow’s cure?