Schizophrenia is a neuropsychiatric disorder that affects the brain’s interpretation of reality. Thus far, a cure to schizophrenia has proven elusive. Still, a study by the University of Philadelphia has begun to change how we perceive schizophrenia, and further research may lead to a solution.
The study titled “Disruption of the blood−brain barrier in 22q11.2 deletion syndrome” indicates that some schizophrenia cases could result from a leaky blood-brain barrier. In future studies, if a significant portion of schizophrenia patients have a leaky blood-brain barrier, this could indicate that schizophrenia results from neuroinflammation.
The Importance of the Blood-Brain Barrier
The blood-brain barrier is between the brain and the core nervous system. When healthy, the blood-brain barrier prevents harmful bacteria in the blood while letting necessary nutrients through to the brain.
This barrier consists of tightly packed endothelial cells, which act as the brain’s security guards. When this barrier is damaged, harmful pathogens can enter the brain, causing infection and occasionally death.
Known diseases caused by blood-brain barrier damage include meningococcal disease, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy. Because the blood-brain barrier plays such a crucial role in the brain’s health, a connection to schizophrenia is likely.
The study’s abstract stated, “The pro-inflammatory intercellular adhesion molecule-1 was upregulated in the 22qDS+schizophrenia-induced blood-brain barrier and in 22qDS mice, indicating compromise of the blood-brain barrier immune privilege.”
Another name for 22qDS is DiGeorge’s Syndrome. Twenty-five percent of studied patients with DiGeorge’s Syndrome developed schizophrenia. This connection does not mean that the blood-brain barrier is the cause of schizophrenia. It does indicate, however, that DiGeorge’s Syndrome and schizophrenia may have a neurological connection.
What We Know about Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is primarily known and diagnosed by its symptoms because a direct cause has yet to be found. Schizophrenia may develop due to a chemical imbalance of dopamine and serotonin, trauma, or other factors. According to WHO, schizophrenia affects 20 million people globally. In comparison to other mental disorders, schizophrenia is rare though lifelong.
Symptoms include the following:
- False sense of reality based on delusions
- Disorganized speech
- Lack of speech, emotion, and behavior
These symptoms can be sifted into three categories: psychotic, cognitive, and negative. The psychotic category involves the first three listed symptoms and includes projected external behavior. Cognitive symptoms affect concentration and memory. The negative category includes the last listed symptom and is noted by increased isolation.
People with schizophrenia will have multiple symptoms. A single symptom does not count as a diagnosis, and a trained doctor will know how to determine if someone has schizophrenia or not correctly. Diagnosing schizophrenia is also dependent on the patient since reaching out to a doctor to discuss an often stigmatized and stereotyped disorder is not easy.
If you or a loved one experiences any symptoms of schizophrenia, please consider reaching out to a health professional for help. Your health is essential and should not be ignored. A good doctor will partner with you to come up with the therapy that works best.
Current Solutions to Schizophrenia
Since the cause of schizophrenia has not been pinpointed, all currently available solutions focus on minimizing schizophrenia symptoms. Antipsychotic medications, psychosocial treatments, and specialized treatment programs are the primary solutions.
Antipsychotic medications are used to dull psychotic symptoms. They are often combined with psychosocial treatments that focus on cognitive behavior and control. Schizophrenic medicines can help control dopamine levels in the brain.
Specialized programs can help walk patients through the stages of psychosis and the symptoms they experience. Grounding techniques and therapy targeting mental strength and memory can be included in the specialized programs.
No available solutions fully resolve schizophrenia symptoms, but consistent monitoring and medication can help limit their effects.
Leaky Blood-Brain Barrier Takeaway
The University of Philadelphia study focused on the blood-brain barrier connection between schizophrenia and DiGeorge’s Syndrome. Their research could be foundational to a new medical solution that focuses on healing the blood-brain barrier.
While the study conducted research revolving around the brain, the overlaps between DiGeorge’s Syndrome and schizophrenia could hold more helpful findings. DiGeorge’s Syndrome is caused by a deletion of necessary protein-coding genes in the 22nd chromosome. Those genes could influence the blood-brain barrier, which influences the immune system. Schizophrenia still has no lead cause, but research has suggested that it is linked to the immune system.
Given the great complexity of the brain, finding a genuine cause for schizophrenia and other brain-related disorders will continue to be a challenging but worthy mountain to climb. Scientists continue to research the brain and its blood-brain barrier to determine how everything functions on a neuron level. While nothing is conclusive yet, this new insight may prove to be the foundation for a solution for schizophrenia.
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