Psychoimmunological alterations in schizophrenia: how do confounding variables influence the findings?
Several groups have contributed to the progress of immunological research in schizophrenia. Early studies demonstrated partly divergent results. The recently improved control concerning confounding variables has lead to increasingly consistent findings. The influence of psychotropic medication, serum cortisol levels, different immunological techniques, sex differences and psychopathology on psychoimmunological findings in schizophrenia is discussed.
Novel findings due to technical advances have strengthened the hypothesis that immunological dysfunction may contribute towards the multifactoral etiology of schizophrenia (Kirch, 1993; Syvälahti, 1994; Wright et al, 1993). Since the early work of Bruce and Peebles (1904) who reported increased leukocyte counts, especially during the acute phase of illness, numerous studies have focused on the role of cellular immunity in schizophrenia. One particular line of research has focused on investigating the numbers of immunocompetent cells. Nyland et al. (1980) showed a decreased number of T-lymphocytes in acute but not in chronic schizophrenics. An elevated number of T-cells was reported by two groups (Henneberg et al., 1990; Ackenheil et al., 1991; Müller et al., 1991, 1993) while others (including ours) demonstrated no changes in T-cell numbers (Villemain et al., 1989; Masserini et al, 1990; Achiron et al, 1994; Sasaki et al, 1994; Hornberg et al, 1995; Wilke et al, 1996). Inconsistent results have also been reported concerning several T-lymphocyte subtypes, B-lymphocytes and natural killer cells (NK-cells).
Another approach has focused on cytokine production. Cytokines are produced by leukocytes; they regulate the differentiation and acti- vation of immunologically active cells and control the communication between the immunocompetent cells. The production of cytokines after mitogen stimulation can be regarded as a functional marker of cellular immunity.
KeywordsSchizophrenic Patient Immunological Technique BioI Psychiatry Chronic Schizophrenic Serum Interferon
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