Dr. Hyman Schipper, a neurologist and researcher at the Lady Davis Institute at the Jewish General Hospital and Professor of Neurology and Medicine at McGill University, has discovered a new pathway that holds promise for unlocking some of the mysteries of schizophrenia, a serious mental illness afflicting about one in every hundred persons and characterized by varying degrees of abnormal thought and mood, and dissociation from reality. Its causes are unknown and, though treatable, it remains incurable.

For the past fifteen years, Dr. Schipper, who specializes in degenerative neurological diseases of aging, has been examining the influence of the protein heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) on the development of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. An over-abundance of HO-1 is found in the brains of patients suffering from these disorders and had been linked to the pathologies common to both conditions. About five years ago, his lab at the LDI created a mouse model with elevated levels of human HO-1 in the brain. At around forty-eight weeks of age (roughly middle age), the animals displayed dramatically hyperactive and repetitive behaviours manifested, for example, by running around in circles.

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August 8, 2012