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Discovery & Development Drug Discovery

It’s in the Blood

Santiago Lago, postdoctoral research associate at the University of Cambridge.

Mental health disorders are the leading cause of disability worldwide and despite the starkly apparent need for novel treatments, a lack of understanding of the diversity of  these disorders, as well as the processes underpinning them, have contributed to the steady decline of neuropsychiatric drug development programmes (by 70 percent) over the last decade. Another challenge faced by drug developers is the dearth of relevant pre-clinical models to test new hypotheses. To fully appreciate the complexities of neuropsychiatric disorders, there is no substitute for the human brain, but taking live brain samples from patients is a significant stumbling block for researchers!

But what if blood cells could be used instead? Researchers at the University of Cambridge, UK, and international collaborators have shown that peripheral blood cells taken from patients with schizophrenia can be used to identify drug targets (1).

“Despite their functional differences from neuronal cells, peripheral blood cells have multiple signalling pathways that are conserved across the cell types. By exploiting the signalling pathways, which are potentially relevant to the pathogenesis of mental health conditions, we have identified an ideal environment in which to test drugs,” explains Santiago Lago, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Cambridge. 

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About the Author

Maryam Mahdi

Assistant Editor

After finishing my degree, I envisioned a career in science communications. However, life took an unexpected turn and I ended up teaching abroad. Though the experience was amazing and I learned a great deal from it, I jumped at the opportunity to work for Texere. I'm excited to see where this new journey takes me!

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