Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe mental disorder that affects
approximately 1% of the United States adult population and influences
how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. The onset of symptoms usually
begins between ages 16 and 30. Symptoms can range from visual and
auditory hallucinations and movement disorders to difficulty beginning
and sustaining activities.
Currently, diagnosing schizophrenia and similar disorders requires a
thorough psychological evaluation and a comprehensive medical exam to
rule out other conditions. A patient may be evaluated for six or more
months before receiving a diagnosis and beginning treatment,
particularly if he or she shows only early signs of the disorder.
‘A blood test that could help doctors more quickly diagnose schizophrenia and other disorders has been developed by researchers.’
Recent studies have indicated that patient outcomes could be
improved if the time elapsed between the onset of symptoms and the
initiation of treatment is much shorter. For this reason, researchers
believe a chemical test that could detect oxidative stress in the blood
- a state commonly linked with schizophrenia and other psychiatric
disorders - could be invaluable in helping to diagnose schizophrenia
Researchers from the University of Maryland College Park (UMD) and
Baltimore (UMB) campuses have developed a blood test that could help
doctors more quickly diagnose schizophrenia and other disorders. Their
study, "Redox Probing for Chemical Information of Oxidative Stress," was
recently published in the journal Analytical Chemistry
"We hope our new technique will allow a more rapid detection and
intervention for schizophrenia, and ultimately lead to better outcomes,"
said Gregory Payne, one of the authors and a joint professor with UMD's
Fischell Department of Bioengineering (BIOE) and the Institute for
Bioscience and Biotechnology Research (IBBR).
The UMD and UMB team, led by research associate Eunkyoung Kim, used a
discovery-driven approach based on the assumptions that chemical
biomarkers relating to oxidative stress could be found in blood, and
that they could be measured by common electrochemical instruments.
Building on an understanding of how foods are tested for
antioxidants, an iridium salt was used to probe blood serum samples for
detectable optical and electrochemical signals that indicate oxidative
stress in the body. The promising initial tests have shown various
biological reductants can be detected, including glutathione, the most
prominent antioxidant in the body.
The group worked with professor of psychiatry Deanna Kelly and her
team at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, University of Maryland
School of Medicine, to perform an initial clinical evaluation using
serum samples from 10 clinical research study participants who had been
diagnosed with schizophrenia, and a healthy control group. Using the new
testing method, the research group was able to correctly differentiate
the samples of those who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia from
those who had no history of the disorder.
"Much emerging data suggests that schizophrenia and other
psychiatric disorders may be due, in part, to inflammation and oxidative
stress abnormalities," Kelly said. "Current methods for measuring these
potential biomarkers are not standardized and have many flaws. Our team
is excited to work with our collaborators at the University of Maryland
to help develop a technique that can more globally measure these
outcomes. Being able to have a subjective marker for clinical response
or aid in more prompt diagnosis could be revolutionary."