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Schizophrenia diagnosis possible using nerve cells from the nose, study shows


Researchers at Tel Aviv University claim that nerve cells in the nose may help in diagnosing those with schizophrenia.


Jennifer Polixenni Brankin

Nerve cells in the nose may help in diagnosing those with schizophrenia according to new research.

The finding could be revolutionary for treating schizophrenia, which presently can only be diagnosed through a mental evaluation.

Schizophrenia can only be confirmed beyond a doubt postmortem during an autopsy of the brain, in which researchers scrape off cell samples for testing.

Yet, Israeli researchers say that they've come up with a way to find schizophrenia in living patients by testing something called microRNA molecules.

These can be retrieved using a simple biopsy procedure in the patient's nose say the scientists.

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To test their hypothesis, the researchers collected olfactory neurons from both people with and without schizophrenia.

Testing their cells for microRNA molecules, they found that those who had the disease had much higher levels of one particular form of microRNA called miR-382.

"We were able to narrow down the microRNA to a differentially expressed set, and from there down to a specific microRNA which is elevated in individuals with the disease compared to healthy individuals," said study author Noam Shomron, of Tel Aviv University.

Researchers believe that nose biopsies can replace the imperfect clinical diagnoses of schizophrenia patients and hopefully lead to better treatment and outcomes.

The study will be published in full in the July issue of Neurobiology of Disease.