“Current challenges in psychosis treatment targeted by new opportunities in stem cell research"
Psychosis involves breach with reality, and hallucinations and delusions are common, disturbing the individual's thoughts, feelings, actions and function. Acute psychosis might occur after e.g. major psychological trauma, but can also be core symptoms of severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia.
Antipsychotic drugs represent a corner stone in the treatment of psychosis. However, major challenges exist, related to both efficacy and tolerability. Clinical trials have demonstrated substantial inter-individual drug response variance in a non-predictable manner, leading to trial-and-error approaches in the individual patient before optimal treatment can be established. This may delay effective treatment for months up to years. In addition, an important subgroup - identifiable only retrospectively - does not benefit from any antipsychotic drug.
Evidence from advanced brain imaging indicate different biological underpinnings of psychosis in subgroups with schizophrenia. This may explain the heterogeneous patient responses to treatment. Biomarker-guided treatment based on individual cellular characteristics is not possible for schizophrenia, due to the unavailability of the brain for direct assessments. The evolution of stem-cell models makes it possible for the first time to directly investigate neuronal differences at structural and functional levels between antipsychotic responders and non-responders. This could pave the way for stratified treatment in schizophrenia and developing drugs with novel mechanisms of action.
About the speaker
Erik Johnsen is a Psychiatrist and senior consultant at Helse Bergen, and is also professor at Dept. of Clinical Medicine, University of Bergen. He is a project leader both in the NORMENT Center of Excellence, and a PI of one of the four core projects in MRCRM.