New Hope for Drug Discovery in Schizophrenia, Other Diseases With Improved Screening Models
Drug discovery for neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia is limited due to a lack of useful models for screening candidate treatments. Currently, all antipsychotic drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration target the same dopamine receptor. Unfortunately, two-thirds of patients with schizophrenia have no response or only partial response to these treatments. New therapies are necessary, but without biologically relevant screening models there has been little progress.
In this new study, scientists theorized that more meaningful results could be generated from testing drug candidates on patient-derived cells, rather than on generic cell lines. They utilized cells isolated from 12 patients with schizophrenia and 12 healthy controls, generating induced pluripotent stem cells that were guided to become neural progenitor cells, the key cell type targeted for neuropsychiatric disorders. Researchers prepared a series of assays from each individual’s cells, treated them with 135 different small molecules selected for their predicted or demonstrated interaction with schizophrenia-relevant biology, and analyzed gene activity. The same drugs were tested on commonly used cancer cell lines for comparison. Results clearly showed that the patient-derived cells yielded more disease-relevant information than the generic cells. In some cases, certain drugs reversed the gene expression signatures associated with schizophrenia.
“There is tremendous value in gene expression-based drug screening using patient-derived cells because it can generate results that are more reflective of disease biology,” said Kristen Brennand, Associate Professor of Neuroscience, Psychiatry, and Genetics and Genomic Sciences at Mount Sinai and senior author of the paper.
“For diseases in which high-throughput phenotypic screening is challenging, transcriptomic-based screening can be highly informative and help accelerate the drug discovery process,” said Radoslav Savić, Director of Scientific Collaborations at Sema4, Associate Professor of Genetics and Genomic Sciences at Mount Sinai and author of the paper.
For this study, drug screening and transcriptome analysis were performed at Mount Sinai with compounds provided by Eli Lilly. Funding for the work came from Mount Sinai and Eli Lilly.
“This study nicely illustrates the importance of using an integrative genomics approach for improving drug discovery and, ultimately, patient care,” said Adam Margolin, PhD, Director of the Icahn Institute for Data Science and Genomic Technology at Mount Sinai. “The results should be immediately applicable not only to drug discovery for schizophrenia but also more broadly to a wide range of diseases for which more biologically relevant screening models are long overdue.”
Paper cited: Benjamin Readhead et al. Expression-based drug screening of neural progenitor cells from individuals with schizophrenia. Nature Communications. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-06515-4
Sema4 is a patient-centered predictive health company founded on the idea that more information, deeper analysis, and increased engagement will improve the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease. A Mount Sinai Health System venture based in Stamford, Connecticut, Sema4 is dedicated to transforming healthcare by building more dynamic models of human health and defining optimal, individualized health trajectories, starting with reproductive health and oncology. Our innovative Sema4 Health Intelligence Platform is enabling us to generate a more complete understanding of disease and wellness and to provide science-driven solutions to the most pressing medical needs. Sema4 believes that patients should be treated as partners, and that data should be shared for the benefit of all.
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