A new research discovery has the potential to revolutionize the biological understanding of some childhood psychiatric disorders. Specifically, scientists have found that when a single protein involved in brain development, called "SRGAP3," is malformed, it causes problems in the brain functioning of mice that cause symptoms that are similar to some mental health and neurological disorders in children. Because this protein has similar functions in humans, it may represent a "missing link" for several disorders that are part of an illness spectrum. In addition, it offers researchers a new target for the development of treatments that can correct the biological cause rather than treat the symptoms. This discovery was published in November 2012 print issue of The FASEB Journal.
"Developmental brain disorders such as schizophrenia, hydrocephalus, mental retardation and autism are among the most devastating diseases in children and young adults," said Dusan Bartsch, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Molecular Biology at the Central Institute of Mental Health at the University of Heidelberg in Mannheim, Germany. "We hope that our findings will contribute to a better understanding, and in the end, to better treatments for these disorders."