EPO Might Help People with Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia Update, January 2004

Source: Reuters Health

The anemia drug erythropoietin, commonly known as EPO, may be helpful for patients with schizophrenia, German researchers report.

New research in mice and in humans suggests EPO could improve the mental function of schizophrenics, and perhaps slow the deterioration that continues even when patients are treated with existing drugs.

Dr. Hannelore Ehrenreich, at Georg-August-University, Goettingen, and her associates note in the medical journal Molecular Psychiatry that their article is intended to "prepare the ground" for using EPO as add-on therapy for schizophrenia.

The editor of the journal, Dr. Julio Licinio, told Reuters Health that experts who reviewed the paper "all said the science was very good." Licinio, who is professor of medicine and psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA, said the German team's discoveries are particularly exciting at this time. "We are desperate to find a new drug," he added.

Ehrenreich's team injected five patients with schizophrenia and five healthy subjects with EPO tagged with a radioisotope. Brain scans showed that EPO entered the brain four hours after administration and lasted for at least 2 days. Levels were higher in the schizophrenic subjects.

They also showed in lab experiments that EPO blunted the toxic effects of the drug haloperidol on brain cells.

Ehrenreich and her colleagues conclude that EPO is "an interesting compound" that may protect brain cells in schizophrenia as well as other similar human disease. Based on their results, a multicenter "proof-of-concept" trial has been started.

SOURCE: Molecular Psychiatry, December 2003.




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