11 November 2011. A laboratory test to diagnose schizophrenia has long been near the top of the clinical wish list, but to date, no widely accepted biomarkers have been identified (see SRF related news story). A report published online October 25 in Molecular Psychiatry pushes a new candidate into the ring: Researchers led by Chunling Wan and Wei Jia of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China, performed a global metabolic profiling study of biomarkers in schizophrenia and, using a combined serum and urine metabolite panel, was able to distinguish schizophrenia subjects from controls with a high degree of accuracy.
By dividing the subject cohort (comprising 112 schizophrenia subjects and 110 healthy controls) into a training set and a test set, first authors Jinglei Yang and Tianlu Chen identified a panel of serum biomarkers that differed between the two diagnostic groups. Those that made the cut: glycerate, eicosenoic acid, β-hydroxybutyrate, pyruvate, and cysteine. The addition of urine β-hydroxybutyrate increased the accuracy of the panel, and resulted in a correct diagnosis for every subject. Importantly, approximately 60 percent of the schizophrenia subjects were first-episode patients who had never received antipsychotics, and the remainder had been off medication for at least four weeks, suggesting that the metabolite changes are unlikely to be due to an effect of neuroleptics.
In addition, Yang, Chen, and colleagues report increased levels of multiple fatty acids and ketone bodies in schizophrenia, which may reflect an upregulation of fatty acid catabolism that the authors attribute to deficient brain glucose supply.—Allison A. Curley.
Yang J, Chen T, Sun L, Zhao Z, Qi X, Zhou K, Cao Y, Wang X, Qiu Y, Su M, Zhao A, Wang P, Yang P, Wu J, Feng G, He L, Jia W, Wan C. Potential metabolite markers of schizophrenia. Mol Psychiatry. 2011 Oct 25. Abstract