December 02, 2005

$1.75 Million for Schiz. research - Australia

$1.75 million NHMRC grant for a world first – the Australian Schizophrenia Research Bank (ASRB)

In a world first, the National Health and Medical Research Council has awarded a coalition of researchers from New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia $1.75 million to establish a national schizophrenia research bank.

The coalition is led by NISAD's (Neuroscience Institute of Schizophrenia and Allied Disorders) Scientific Director, Professor Vaughan Carr.

The bringing together of current research efforts in to a nationally coordinated body will radically strengthen Australia's place in the world schizophrenia research effort.

"This unique facility will expand and link existing programs of infrastructure from WA, Queensland and NSW as a 'one stop' shop to support schizophrenia research on a national basis" said Professor Vaughan Carr, NISAD Scientific Director.

"NISAD has directed much of its efforts to establish research infrastructure in New South Wales. This grant will bring together the important work of the Hunter DNA Bank, the NISAD Schizophrenia Register and the NISAD Virtual Brain Bank in a national facility." he said

Schizophrenia represents one of the most perplexing and challenging problems confronting researchers and health care providers today.

With a prevalence of 4 per 1000, significant advances in schizophrenia research have been limited by the difficulty in a achieving sufficiently large samples of sufferers and their families who have been well characterised in terms of clinical, cognitive and neuroanatomical evaluations in order to identify the causal role of multiple genetic factors.

"The national bank will be available to both Australian and international researchers and will support research from the clinic to the bench top" Professor Carr said

The wide variety of research possible through the discovery of molecular or other targets for therapeutic intervention, will allow for the generation of shared commercialisation opportunities for Australian researchers.

"The large cohort that this bank will provide means there will be sufficient statistical power to allow Australian researchers to unlock important doors using new technologies available to neuroscience." he said

For example, it will be possible to specify certain sample characteristics of sufferers (such as age, gender, symptoms) and determine whether these are associated with particular anatomical changes or gene expressions.

The facility will be housed at the Centre for Mental Health Studies in Newcastle and up to 15 research officers, IT specialists and technicians will be employed across the three States to run the facility.

Source: NISAD


Unfortunately, no new schizophrenia project that completely ignores nutrition has much future, since the current exclusive focus on genes will never fully explain the clinical picture, which in the fat-eating, Omega-3 deficient Western nations often includes 2 potent dietary aggravators: lifelong anxiety caused prenatally by fatty maternal diet; and fatty personal diet, causing co-morbid obesity and diabetes.

A pure phenotype of schizophrenia, lacking these two aggavators, may be seen in perhaps 20% of Western cases, who recover reasonably well; and in over half of all cases seen in the poorer nations, where maternal and personal diet is lower in saturated fat, but richer in neuroprotective Essential Fatty Acids.

As Dr E Fuller Torrey has shown, the industrial Western nations are in the midst of a 200-year epidemic of insanity, an epidemic that of course depends partly on predisposing genes, but also on fatty, Omega-3 deficient diet, common since 1770 in the West. The consequences of this unbalanced diet are now becoming apparent (co-morbid anxiety, diabetes etc.). and the real challenge in schizophrenia is not to find genes and new drugs, but an effective way to mend this disastrous Western diet, to improve early neurodevelopment, and to ensure adequate Inositol intake in all cases complicated by anxiety disorder.

Australia's NISAD researchers are simply unaware of these overarching nutritional problems and possibilities, which is where more rational research would focus its efforts.

Posted by: Dr Robert Peers at December 6, 2005 02:44 AM

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