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New target explored for psychiatric drug development

Posted January 30, 2014
New target explored for psychiatric drug development
Researchers have discovered that a molecule known as an oxysterol can stimulate receptors on brain cells key to cognitive function. The finding may aid development of new types of antipsychotic drugs. The black (top) line shows an untreated receptor. The red line, with significantly more downward peaks, shows oxysterol is activating the receptor. Credit: Zorumski Laboratory
In a surprising discovery, neuroscientists have found that a breakdown product of cholesterol in the brain may be a target for developing new drugs to treat schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.

Although the research is in its early stages, the finding comes at a crucial time. Most existing drugs to treat schizophrenia work in similar ways, targeting  in the , but many patients don’t respond well to the medications or can’t tolerate the side effects.

The investigators, from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, SAGE Therapeutics and Weill Cornell Medical College, report in The Journal of Neuroscience that a molecule known as an oxysterol helps control a different type receptor in the brain that is key in cognitive function.

Because the naturally occurring oxysterol molecule interacts with receptors not normally associated with medications used to treat serious psychiatric illnesses, the researchers believe it could be useful in the development of new types of antipsychotic drugs.

Read more at: MedicalXpress

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