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Could stem cell transplant 'fix' schizophrenia?

Sept. 11, 2013 at 1:49 AM   |   Comments

SAN ANTONIO, Sept. 11 (UPI) -- Experimental work on rats suggests transplanting stem cells could be a permanent cure for schizophrenia, University of Texas researchers say.

In a study released Monday, a team at the Health Science Center in San Antonio said cells removed from rat fetuses and injected into the hippocampus of adult rats restored normal functioning. Schizophrenics lack cells called "interneurons" that govern the dopamine system and the hippocampus, which plays an important function in learning, memory and executive functioning such as decision-making.

Daniel Lodge, an assistant professor of pharmacology in the medical school, said current treatment for schizophrenia, including medication and deep-brain stimulation, works only temporarily. In rats, the cell transplantation appears to work a permanent cure.

"You can essentially fix the problem," Lodge said. "Ultimately, if this is translated to humans, we want to reprogram a patient's own cells and use them."

Stephanie Perez, a graduate student in Lodge's lab and lead author of a paper on the research in Molecular Psychiatry, said the idea came from reports on research using cell transplants to restore motor deficits.

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