Hair test that could detect schizophrenia, study finds. Picture: Pexels

London - Scientists claim to have developed a way of detecting schizophrenia – by carrying out tests on human hairs.

Japanese researchers said levels of an enzyme called MPST is linked to people having the severe mental illness – symptoms of which can include hallucinations, delusions and disorganised thinking.

They looked at MPST levels in post-mortem brain samples from patients who had schizophrenia and compared them to unaffected people. 

Schizophrenia is characterised by thoughts or experiences that seem out of touch with reality, disorganised speech or behaviour and decreased participation in daily activities

The levels correlated with the severity of symptoms, suggesting higher quantities may cause patients to suffer more hallucinations. They then analysed hair follicles from 300 people, half of whom were diagnosed with schizophrenia. MPST was higher in patients with the condition compared to those who did not.

MPST is an enzyme which increases the production of a chemical called hydrogen sulphide. Further results showed hydrogen sulphide may damage DNA and lead to schizophrenia. 

About one in 100 people in the UK and US will suffer from schizophrenia, data shows. Drug treatments focus on two brain chemicals – dopamine and serotonin. But the study suggests there may be scope for designing a drug which might work on hydrogen sulphide levels in the brain.

Takeo Yoshikawa, of the RIKEN institute, told EMBO Molecular Medicine: "We are currently testing whether inhibiting the synthesis of hydrogen sulphide can alleviate symptoms in models of schizophrenia."

Dr Cosmo Hallstrom, from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said a test for schizophrenia would be useful for diagnosis.

Daily Mail