Current diagnosis of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder is challenging due to a complex range of symptoms. Early diagnosis is the key to vastly improved outcomes for patients. The EU funded SCHIZDX (Developing minimally invasive, tools and technologies for high throughput, low cost molecular assays for the early diagnosis of schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders) project has developed the first molecular test for the diagnosis of schizophrenia, VeriPsych.
The test is being marketed for diagnosis of first onset of schizophrenia. As there is evidence that brain ‘signature’ molecules are reflected in changes in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and serum, the researchers looked at glycoproteins, proteins and phosphoproteins in a range of schizophrenia patients including first onset antipsychotic-naive schizophrenia and appropriate controls.
With onset of schizophrenia, 24 changed proteins were identified. On comparing first-onset drug-naive schizophrenia patients before and after treatment with antipsychotic drugs, two proteins – lumican and apolipoprotein, had increased along with glycosylation changes after treatment with olanzapine.
Further trials suggest that antipsychotic compounds with overlapping pharmacological profiles are likely to have specific treatment response biomarker signatures. Altogether, seven candidate treatment response biomarkers were identified using multiplex immunoassay profiling.
Researchers identified more schizophrenia biomarkers using a newly developed blood culture system combined with an immunoassay panel. The result is a clinically-relevant system for identification of drug-predictive or response biomarkers and for novel drug discovery.
A total of 21 papers cover SCHIZDX research results and more than four were submitted. Together with the project website regularly updated with meeting minutes, presentations and deliverable reports and international conferences, there is wide dissemination of the project outcomes.
Nine patents have been applied for including 51 schizophrenia and 34 differential schizophrenia markers and markers from various sources – peripheral blood cells, whole blood, serum as well as from data-mining origins.
The identified suite of biomarkers is also being evaluated for other psychological disorders including bipolar disorder, various forms of depression and autism. A minimally invasive, cost-effective molecular test that differentiates between disorders with overlapping systems stands to deliver early, effective therapy for patients, increasing the chances of return to normal life after treatment.