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Friday, October 14, 2016

Slowing Mental Illness Progression

mental illness
Mental health organizations and addiction medicine professionals observed Mental Illness Awareness Week (#MIAW) during the first week of October. Sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the aim of MIAW was to shine a light on disorders that will affect 1 in 5 Americans in any given year. By doing so, hopefully we can chip away at the stigma and discrimination that people with mental illness face every day, which could result in more people seeking help.

There are currently a number of scientifically accepted treatments and therapies for mental health disorders, such as addiction, anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The use of medication in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy, can result in people, with a form of mental illness, leading a relatively normal life.

There is a still much that is not understood about the causes of mental illness. This is why researchers continue to probe to find answers, which could result in the development of preventative measures and new, more effective treatments. Interestingly, the causes of mental illness may be answered by studying the brain of fruit flies.

A team of researchers from Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry and the School of Biological Sciences at Bangor University, may have shed some light on the causes of mental health disorders, ScienceDaily reports. The findings were published in Scientific Reports.

The fruit fly, known scientifically as Drosophila, shares a number of genetic similarities with humans, with 70 percent of the genes expressed in our brains matching the fruit fly’s brain, according to the article. The human brain has a RNA processing protein known as SRSF5, which is important to the synthesis of acetylcholine, a molecule which acts as a messenger between neurons. Previous research has shown imbalances in SRSF5 and acetylcholine production in the brains of patients with bipolar disease. The fruit fly’s brain has an equivalent protein known as B52, which could lead to drugs being developed to mitigate or slow the progression of mental health disorders.

"Our findings are exciting and have the potential to form the basis of drug therapies to address mental diseases in humans,” said study leader, Dr Torsten Bossing, Senior Research Fellow in Neurobiology at the School of Biomedical and Healthcare Sciences, Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry.

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