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Blood clotting and the immune system could contribute to psychosis, School of Pharmacy researcher finds

20 August 2021

A scientific review has found evidence that a disruption in blood clotting and the complement pathway of the immune system could be contributing factors in the development of psychosis.

The article, a joint collaborative effort by researchers at Cardiff University, RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, and UCD Conway Institute, is published in Molecular Psychiatry.  The lead author is Dr Meike Heurich, who works at the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Cardiff University.

Recent studies have identified blood proteins involved in the innate immune system and blood clotting networks as key players implicated in psychosis.

The researchers analysed these studies and developed a new theory that proposes the imbalance of both of these systems leads to inflammation, which in turn contributes to the development of psychosis.

The new theory further refines the prevailing 'two-hit' hypothesis, where early genetic and/or environmental factors disrupt the developing central nervous system and increases the vulnerability of the individual to subsequent environmental disruptions.

"While the idea of psychosis resulting from some form of inflammation and immune activation is not new, our data suggest a new understanding and change of focus towards a combined function of the innate immune complement system and coagulation pathways to the progression to psychotic disorder," said Dr Meike Heurich, first author and lecturer in Immunology, Complement and Coagulation Biology at School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Cardiff University.

"Early identification and treatment significantly improves clinical outcomes of psychotic disorders. Our theory may provide a further step to biomarkers of psychosis… and more effective treatment," said Dr Melanie Föcking, joint first author and Lecturer in Psychiatric Neuroscience at RCSI Department of Psychiatry.

"The works builds on our recent studies which increasingly implicate dysregulation of the complement and coagulation pathways both in and preceding psychotic disorder," said Professor David Cotter, Professor of Molecular Psychiatry at RCSI Department of Psychiatry.

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