German Researcher’s haved reported that the anemia drug erythropoietin, commonly known as EPO, may be beneficial to patients with schizophrenia.
German Researcher’s haved reported that the anemia drug erythropoietin, commonly known as EPO, may be beneficial to patients with schizophrenia.New research in mice and in humans suggests EPO could improve the mental function of schizophrenics, and perhaps slow the deterioration that continues even when patients are treated with existing drugs. Dr. Hannelore Ehrenreich, at Georg-August-University, Goettingen, and her associates note in the medical journal Molecular Psychiatry that their article is intended to “prepare the ground” for using EPO as add-on therapy for schizophrenia. The editor of the journal, Dr. Julio Licinio, told Reuters Health that experts who reviewed the paper “all said the science was very good.” Licinio, who is professor of medicine and psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA, said the German team’s discoveries are particularly exciting at this time. “We are desperate to find a new drug,” he added. Ehrenreich’s team injected five patients with schizophrenia and five healthy subjects with EPO tagged with a radioisotope. Brain scans showed that EPO entered the brain four hours after administration and lasted for at least 2 days. Levels were higher in the schizophrenic subjects. They also showed in lab experiments that EPO blunted the toxic effects of the drug haloperidol on brain cells. To examine the potential mental effects of EPO, the group tested it in mice that had learned to avoid a food that made them ill but were given no other food source. This mimics to some extent what happens in the brain in schizophrenia, and EPO enhanced the mental function of mice in this situation. Ehrenreich and her colleagues conclude that EPO is “an interesting compound” that may protect brain cells in schizophrenia as well as other similar human disease. Based on their results, a multicenter “proof-of-concept” trial has been started. (Source: Molecular Psychiatry, MEDLINE Plus Dec 2003)