Consultant adolescent psychiatrist, Dr Anthony James, and a team of researchers have been awarded a prestigious British Medical Association (BMA) research grant to explore the onset of schizophrenia in young people.

Schizophrenia affects 1% of the population and causes immeasurable suffering. Existing drugs are only partially effective and have considerable side effects.  The neurodevelopmental hypothesis – which suggests that the disruption of early brain development increases the risk of later developing schizophrenia – has been generally accepted, but has not been testable till now.

This project, funded by the 2013 Margaret Temple grant for schizophrenia research, will look at olfactory stem cells and induced pluripotential stem cells from patients with adolescent-onset schizophrenia and matched healthy adolescent controls.  This will enable the researchers to examine for the first time the neurodevelopmental hypothesis of schizophrenia and related epigenetic effects.

Dr James said: “I’m thrilled that my colleagues and I have been awarded this grant, which will help us understand the causes of schizophrenia much better than we currently do.  By examining these stem cells belonging to young people with schizophrenia we will be able to get a clearer idea of how their mental illness relates to their cellular make-up.  This will hopefully help shape our understanding of the best way to treat this terrible illness.”

The research project is led by Dr James, who is a consultant psychiatrist based at the Highfield Unit Oxford, our adolescent inpatient facility in Headington, Oxford. The work will be carried out in collaboration with Professor Alan Mackay-Sim in Brisbane, Australia, a world leader in olfactory stem cell research.

You can watch a short video of Dr James talking about the project here:

Dr Anthony James (right) with BMA president Professor Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumaran at the 2013 BMA research grants awards ceremony