Fruit flies on LSD aid psychosis study

July 27, 2009 at 3:31 PM

NEW ORLEANS, July 27 (UPI) -- Two U.S. researchers seeking to understand human psychosis and schizophrenia are studying rats and fruit flies given psychedelic LSD, the researchers say.

The $1.4 million experiment to isolate novel genes involved in schizophrenia and other forms of psychosis is unique, says Assistant Professor Charles Nichols of the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center New Orleans, who is working with his father, Purdue University medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology Professor David Nichols.

"Most models look (only) at rats, so what I'm trying to do is use fruit flies for a more efficient model of a neurochemistry that goes on in the brain," the younger Nichols told The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune.

The senior Nichols will administer LSD, or lysergic acid diethylamide, to rats every two days for two months until they exhibit clear signs of schizophrenia, the newspaper said. he will then study their behavior and effects on their genes.

The younger Nichols will then give LSD to fruit flies, using the rats as a guide in mapping what genes are affected by the acid.

Nichols told the newspaper he chose fruit flies instead of more rats or mice for a second phase of testing because fruit fly genes are easier to identify.

Using flies is also more cost effective -- $10 a month to feed and maintain thousands of fruit flies compared with $1,000 a month to feed and care for less than 100 rats.

The grant, provided by the U.S. government's National Institute of Mental Health, will cover LSU and Purdue research costs for four years.

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