21:09 GMT16 January 2021
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    UK scientists have begun testing a radically new approach to schizophrenia treatment. In the course of the next two years, 30 patients will get infusions of the so-called monoclonal antibody drug each month, which will target their immune systems. Radio Sputnik discussed this new method with professor Olive Howes.

    According to the researchers this new treatment will help target the root causes of schizophrenia in a more fundamental way than current therapies do because the focus is on the way brain cells react to the immune system of the body.

    In an interview with Sputnik, Oliver Howes, a professor of molecular psychiatry at the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences and a consultant psychiatrist at the Maudsley Hospital in South London said that currently doctors are using a method to block chemical dopamine from getting released into the patient’s bloodstream, but sometimes it fails to address all of the symptoms of the illness.

    “If the illness isn’t treated it can sometimes lead to death. More often actually it is individuals ending their own lives, so they are much more at risk of that. But what is radically new about our approach is that instead of just blocking the downward consequences, we are trying to target the upstream causes. Particularly the immune system,” Howes said.

    He further said that a lot of work in the last few years has identified that the immune system seems to play a major role in a number of mental illnesses

    Talking about the new treatment the professor said that it involves antibodies that have been designed to target immune cells that doctors think are overactive in schizophrenia. The method of giving the drug to the patient will involve an infusion, or a drip, once a month.

    “The monoclonal antibody is a brand-new therapy that is being used increasingly in medicine because they can be targeted really specifically to the problem that we think is going on in the illness,” Howes said.

    He further said that what’s different about this treatment is that it specifically targets the type of immune responses that doctors think is a problem, as opposed to old-fashioned drugs that target the downstream consequences.

    The results of the treatment will be seen through brain scans and observing changes in symptoms. 

    The professor added that this approach will “give a better understanding of interaction between the body and the mind.”


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