July 01, 2007

Might Some Cases of Schizophrenia Be 'Diabetes' of the Brain?

Recent and very preliminary research out of the UK suggests that some cases of schizophrenia may be helped by a medication that will enable brain cells to more effectively use glucose (sugar). Some very early studies being conducted at University of Cambridge (United Kingdom) have begun to explore that possibility.

In diabetes, glucose cannot be adequately utilized by cells of the body. In some cases of neuropsychiatric brain disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, a new theory suggests that part of the problem may be that glucose cannot be adequately utilized by cells of the brain.

Brain cells must use up to 30 per cent of the body’s glucose in order to function normally. Insufficient glucose can cause harm to brain cells.

Research led by Professor Sabine Bahn, director of the Cambridge Centre for Neuropsychiatric Research analyzed the brains of people with schizophrenia and other serious psychiatric illnesses, finding that glucose was not being used efficiently in the brain. In fact, evidence showed that even at the earliest stages of disease, the brain's ability to use glucose might already be impaired.

Other studies have linked low glucose levels in the brain to neurological problems. The treatment is also being researched to see if it might be able to alleviate symptoms of people suffering from Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

PsyNova, founded by Professor Bahn, does metabolic profiling which may lead to detection and possible earlier treatment for this glucose inefficiency. Earlier treatment might lessen the damage to the brain commonly seen early on in the development of these severe neuropsychiatric disorders.

Professor Bahn says, "We suspect people with many mental illnesses may have problems transporting glucose across the blood-brain barrier and we are working on medication which can correct this."

Please note that this possible issue of brain glucose metabolism does not seem to be related to the diabetes and general blood glucose problems associated with antipsychotic medications that are currently used on the market.

Also - its important to note that this is very preliminary research and it typically takes 5 to 8 years for any research of this stage to move to general availability - if it proves to be accurate during the many years of testing that are still required. Only about 1 in 100 of phase 1 trials ever reach consumers because they usually fail in clinical testing.

This is nothing to get excited about right now - just a line of research that looks potentially interesting. We'll see how it pans out in the long term.

Read the article: 'Sugar Pill' Could Help Cure Manic Depressives and Schizophrenics

Related Research Abstract: Metabolic profiling of CSF: evidence that early intervention may impact on disease progression and outcome in schizophrenia.
PLoS Med. 2006 Aug ; 3(8): e327

Related Reading:
Diabetes Screening Process Validated for Patients With Schizophrenia
"Metabolomics" to be Used to Study Schizophrenia And its Treatment


And another find: from the Stanley Foundation list of approved grants -


Summaries of Approved Treatment Trial Grants (October 2006 Submissions)

Sabine Bahn, MD, PhD, et al.
University of Cambridge
Cambridge, United Kingdom
A 7-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of intranasal insulin in patients with schizophrenia.

Sabine Bahn, MD, PhD, et al.
University of Cambridge
Cambridge, United Kingdom
A 7-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel phase I study of exenatide in patients with schizophrenia

Posted by: CopperKettle at July 1, 2007 11:47 AM

If this modified diabetes treatment medication to treat schizophrenia, just now entering phase1 trial, the outcome is still a long way, is that right? patients who already developed high blood glucose with atypical antipsychotics, would they be an ideal participants in the trial?
how could I get more info re this drug?

Posted by: Jena at July 1, 2007 01:58 PM

How can I get more information on this as well?
I have been diagnosed as schizoaffective and I would appreciate any additional info on this topic.

Posted by: Carlo at July 1, 2007 02:02 PM

This is fascinating. I have been taking Zyprexa for years for schizophrenia and it is affecting my glucose tolerance, although I do not yet have diabetes. It will be very interesting to see how this line of research turns out. Keep it up!

Posted by: Donna at July 1, 2007 04:19 PM

Well, I can just say that I really hope that this turns out to be true. It would surley be amazing breakthrough, and millions of pepole with mental illness would benefit from it.

Posted by: DJ at July 1, 2007 06:56 PM

could we be informed please, where to get further info re this trial or re this med? These comments, are they read by the research trial cambridge university people concerned? we always read about this kind of med which gives us some hope but then again it all becomes so quiet and leaves us in dark. I read of another phase3 trial of a med called Bifeprunox which would be weight neutral or even reduce weight but even though it was in phase3 trial,
never heard of it in ages. However, this one is of a complete different conception and a very new conception we never heard before. I just need some hope and please, enlighten us if you can.

Posted by: Jena at July 2, 2007 01:45 AM

Like most early research, this is just a path scientists are taking. Candidates are not usually recruited for large studies until a company is ready to go into Phase III clinical trials, which can take years.

Some research is about already existing medications or nutritional supplements. Then, the information from those studies can be used by doctors at their discretion (called "off-label").

But when the research involves a potential NEW medication, it takes years. We will keep you posted if we hear that any actual clinical trials get publicly announced.

So far, this early research is being conducted in England.

Posted by: Jeanie W. at July 2, 2007 06:08 AM

To, Jeanie W.
Thank you for the info re:
the clinical drug trials.

Posted by: Jena at July 26, 2007 01:13 PM

i am a schizophrenic,living in india,lucknow.
this illness very gradually happened,since i was 14 years old;now i am 30 years of age.

Posted by: abc at October 29, 2007 01:42 AM

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