A simple blood test for diagnosing schizophrenia, the most serious form of mental illness, could be available by year-end, according to a new study.
The disorder, with symptoms that can include hallucinations and delusional thoughts, affects millions of people worldwide.
Celia Henry Arnaud, senior editor, Chemical and Engineering News, which published the report, mentions the test as a part of a broader discussion of how scientists are using non-brain cells to study schizophrenia in a bid to develop new diagnostic tests. She notes that schizophrenia does not just involve the brain, but also abnormal levels of certain proteins that appear in other parts of the body.
The article highlights groundbreaking research by a group of scientists in Britain, indicating that 40 percent of the chemical changes in the brains of schizophrenia patients also occur in other body parts.
The scientists are studying these biomarkers in the skin, immune cells, and blood of patients to provide a real-time picture of the disease.
Most previous studies, in contrast, were done with brain tissue taken from patients after death, the article notes.
The scientists have already identified several schizophrenia biomarkers in the blood and are working with a company that plans to launch a blood test for diagnosing schizophrenia in 2010, said a release of the American Chemical Society (ACS).
The test could help confirm diagnoses made on the basis of psychiatric evaluations and allow earlier diagnosis so that patients can be treated earlier.
The report appeared in Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly journal.