Schizophrenia and autoantibodies: is there a connection?

Some cases of schizophrenia could be caused by autoantibodies that prevent the proper functioning of a molecule involved in the communication of neurons: this is what emerges from a research published in Cell and conducted by a team of researchers from Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU). “The results are impressive,” says Hidehiko Takahashi, one of the authors, commenting on the laboratory studies on mice, whose behavior assumed the typical traits of schizophrenia shortly after the autoantibody infusion.

Only in some cases. These autoantibodies would counteract the action of NCAM1 (Neural Cell Adhesion Molecule), a glycoprotein that plays a fundamental role in the communication between neurons and whose (non) functioning has been linked in the past with the onset of schizophrenia.

To understand more, the researchers used two groups of people, 200 healthy people and 200 patients with schizophrenia: only 12 of the sick patients were found to have anti-NCAM1 autoantibodies. “This result indicates that autoantibodies could be the cause of the disease only in some cases, not always,” stresses Hiroki Shiwaku, coordinator of the study.

The researchers then injected the anti-NCAM1 autoantibodies into the brains of healthy mice, to confirm that they were indeed linked to the disease: shortly after the procedure, the rodents began exhibiting symptoms consistent with schizophrenia and impaired communication between neurons. .

Cause diverse. If it is true that the number of patients in whom the presence of these autoantibodies has been found is not high (just 6% of the total), schizophrenia, the researchers underline, is a complex disease that often has different causes: this is why to identify each of these causes is important, to allow the development of targeted treatments for each patient.