March 18, 2005

Protein markers in schizophrenia

Discovery of biomarkers in human urine and cerebrospinal fluid by capillary electrophoresis coupled to mass spectrometry: Towards new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches.

Wittke S, Mischak H, Walden M, Kolch W, Radler T, Wiedemann K.

Mass spectrometry (MS) has become an important tool to help researchers discover biomarkers in diseases. Biomarkers are molecules that can be used to diagnose and classify diseases. This technique, MS, helps in identifying proteins (which are in naturally found in cells in the body) with unprecedented speed and sensitivity using either tissues or body fluids such as urine, blood, and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The researchers here report on their results of a new biomarker discovery system that uniquely combines another method known as capillary electrophoresis with MS (called CE-MS).

This is a German study, where the researchers report that CE-MS analysis of human urine can identify small polypeptides (or chains of proteins) which can then serve as biomarkers for different kidney diseases. More interestingly, they also report on initial data using human CSF (which is a clear and colorless liquid that protects the brain and spinal cord) that strongly suggests that CE-MS analysis of low-molecular-weight proteins and peptides can reveal several potential biomarkers for schizophrenia as well as Alzheimer’s disease. In particular, they report that that when they applied CE-MS analysis to CSF fluids of 7 patients with schizophrenia they were able to find polypeptide patterns that distinguished those with schizophrenia from healthy controls. They were also able to distinguish the polypeptide patterns of those who had Alzheimer disease and schizophrenia.

So, while these results suggest that CE-MS based analysis of CSF fluids maybe act as a marker for protein patterns in someone who has schizophrenia, it is important to keep in mind that this is still a very early study with a very small sample of patients. This preliminary data needs to be verified by wider clinical studies, before we are able to say that we can diagnose schizophrenia based on patterns of distinct proteins. But this work does open doors for further insights into the mechanisms of schizophrenia at the molecular level and provides promise for future early diagnostic interventions.

Support: This work was supported in part by German grant # 0312939 from BioProfil ‘Funktionelle Genomanalyse’ and by grant # 203.19-32329-5-461 from the German Lower Saxony Ministry of Economy.

Click here to find this article on PubMed


Great news.

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