Paving the Way in Life-Changing Schizophrenia Research - RAH Research Fund
Centre for Cancer Biology 31 January 2017

Paving the Way in Life-Changing Schizophrenia Research

“I work under the hope that what we do, with your help, can make a difference.”

Dr Quenten Schwarz from the Centre for Cancer Biology and his neurovascular research team are on a mission to learn more about human development to ultimately combat an array of heartbreaking diseases and conditions affecting our population.

“If I learn how to build a car and put the engine together….when something happens to it I’ll be able to fix it. The same principle applies to developmental biology. If we can understand how the brain is pieced together during embryonic development, then perhaps we can understand how to fix things when it goes wrong,” Dr Schwarz explained.

One of Dr Schwarz’s exciting areas of research is investigating the origins of a very common mental disorder impacting one per cent of the Australia population, schizophrenia. Some of this research has been boosted with your support and you can feel proud knowing you’re playing a role in alleviating suffering for people with mental illness.

“What we have found is a protein that is really essential for brain formation and that when there are lower levels of this protein, this leads to schizophrenia,” Dr Schwarz said.

“What we are now doing is trying to understand more about the role of this protein and how it controls brain development.”

With previous support from the RAH Research Fund, Dr Schwarz is now able to take a component of this study to the next level investigating what could be a potential screening tool for schizophrenia.

“Someone with schizophrenia will be predisposed from birth but it won’t develop until they are older,” Dr Schwarz explained.

“As a young child, your brain is more like sponge, you soak everything in. Then when you are in your early to late teens your brain picks up certain skills to become more directed in one way. It’s at this time your brain starts to remodel and you start to become specialised in the way you think.

“When that happens some of the connections in the brain change and that’s when we think schizophrenia can start to present.”

What Dr Schwarz and his team will be doing is gathering blood samples from both schizophrenia patients and unaffected patients to test the level of this protein. They are proposing that the schizophrenia patient samples will have a lower level of this protein.

“This means one day we could potentially screen children at a younger age, and then use interventional therapies to alleviate this disorder. Eventually we hope our work could even be used to develop new treatments to switch this protein back on.”

With your support, Dr Schwarz and his team can continue to progress this exciting research as well as progress work on a range of other life-changing research areas.

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