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When scientists learned that PCP, also known as angel dust, can cause every single symptom of schizophrenia, they wondered if chemicals that have the opposite effect could fight mental disorders. That insight led to them to discover a new class of antipsychotic medications.
To understand how the recreational drug plays tricks on the mind, neuroscientists gave it to lab rats. Those researchers could counteract the strange behavior of their furry assistants by stimulating brain proteins called glutamate receptors. Big drug companies, including Eli Lilly, took note of that discovery and started searching for molecules that can push the same psychological buttons in humans.
In the Sept. 15 issue of Chemical and Engineering News, Carmen Drahl told that story, along with the tales of three other experimental medications that could turn the tide against schizophrenia. Each compound operates in a completely different way, and all of them have been tested on human volunteers.
That is really big news because doctors have been stuck using the same class of pills -- dopamine blockers -- since the 1950's.
Drahl got the scoop on the new treatments during a special seminar about schizophrenia, which took place last month during the American Chemical Society meeting in Philadelphia.
LY404039 was discovered by Eli Lilly and works by activating glutamate receptors. It is furthest along in the approval process. Unlike other schizophrenia drugs, it does not cause excessive weight gain.
DCCCyB was developed by Merck, and it does the job by blocking glycine transporters
PF-2545920 was tested by Pfizer, and it gums up a phosphodiesterase enzyme.
TC-5619 was invented at Targacept and it excites nicotine receptors with far more precision than the finest cigarettes. Schizophrenics tend to medicate themselves by smoking, and new drugs may offer them a similar kind of relief without the serious health risks that come from tobacco products.
If these drugs are approved by the FDA, the social implications could be profound: A great deal of homelessness is caused by psychological problems. Perhaps some of these new substances will allow people with serious mental illness to become functional and live somewhat normal lives.
See Wired for the original article.
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