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06-04-2011 | Mental health | Article

Specific metabolic abnormalities associated with schizophrenia


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MedWire News: Schizophrenia patients exhibit specific metabolic abnormalities related to glucoregulatory processes and proline metabolism, Finnish researchers have found.

The findings, published in the journal Genome Medicine, could be an important step toward the development of a clinical diagnostic test for the mental health disorder.

Matej Oresic, from the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland in Espoo, and team studied 139 patients with a DSM-IV psychotic disorder, consisting of 45 patients with schizophrenia, 57 with other nonaffective psychosis (ONAP), and 37 with affective psychosis, and 139 mentally healthy controls matched for age, gender, and area of residence.

Serum samples collected from the participants were assessed for metabolite profiles using metabolomics - a high-throughput method for detecting small metabolites.

The researchers found that, compared with controls, schizophrenia patients had significantly higher metabolite levels in six lipid clusters containing mostly saturated triglycerides, and in two small-molecule clusters containing, among other metabolites, the branched chain amino acids phenylalanine and tyrosine, and proline, glutamic, lactic, and pyruvic acids.

Further analysis showed that glutamic acid levels were elevated in all of the patients with psychoses, relative to controls, whereas elevated proline levels were specific to schizophrenia patients.

After accounting for factors such as metabolic comorbidities, antipsychotic medication use, diet, and other lifestyle variables, the researchers found that schizophrenia was independently associated with higher metabolite levels in seven of these eight clusters.

They note that metabolic abnormalities were less pronounced among participants with ONAP or affective psychosis than among schizophrenia patients.

Oresic and team conclude: "Our findings suggest that specific metabolic abnormalities related to glucoregulatory processes and proline metabolism are specifically associated with schizophrenia and reflect two different disease-related pathways."

They add: "We believe further metabolomics studies in psychotic disorders will be a powerful tool to investigate disease susceptibility, clinical course, and treatment response, sensitive to both genetic and environmental variation."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Mark Cowen

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