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Alpha7 neuronal nicotinic receptors as a drug target in schizophrenia.

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Expert Opinion on Therapeutic Targets (Impact Factor: 4.9). 12/2012; DOI: 10.1517/14728222.2013.736498
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Introduction: Schizophrenia is a profoundly debilitating disease that represents not only an individual, but a societal problem. Once characterized solely by the hyperactivity of the dopaminergic system, therapies directed to dampen dopaminergic neurotransmission were developed. However, these drugs do not address the significant impairments in cognition and the negative symptoms of the disease, and it is now apparent that disequilibrium of many neurotransmitter systems is involved. Despite enormous efforts, minimal progress has been made toward the development of safer, more effective therapies to date. Areas covered: The high preponderance of smoking in schizophrenics suggests that nicotine may provide symptomatic improvement, which has led to investigation for selective molecules targeted to individual nicotinic receptor (nAChR) subtypes. Of special interest is activation of the homomeric α7nAChR, which is widely distributed in the brain and has been implicated in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia through numerous approaches. Expert opinion: Preclinical and clinical data suggest that neuronal α7nAChRs play an important role in cognitive functions. Moreover, some, but not all, early clinical trials conducted with α7nAChR agonists show cognitive benefits in schizophrenics. These encouraging results suggest that development of compounds targeting α7nAChRs will represent a valuable tool to mitigate symptoms associated with schizophrenia, and open new strategies for better pharmacological treatment of these patients.

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