NeuRA and UNSW Professor Cynthia Shannon Weickert and NeuRA PhD student Helen Cai. Photo: NeuRA


In one of the biggest breakthroughs in schizophrenia research in recent times, Cynthia Shannon Weickert, a professor from Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) and UNSW Sydney, has identified immune cells in greater amounts in the brains of some people with schizophrenia. 

The study, published in Molecular Psychiatry, has the potential to transform global schizophrenia research and open new avenues for developing targeted immune cell therapies​.

One in every 100 Australians lives with schizophrenia. No single cause of schizophrenia has been identified, and this has prevented the development of a cure.

The current treatments for schizophrenia are designed to suppress symptoms rather than target underlying causes of the disorder. These drugs only partially relieve symptoms and can produce unwanted side effects.

Most scientists have had a long held belief that immune cells were independent from the brain pathology in psychotic illnesses, Shannon Weickert said.

“In our study, we challenged this assumption that immune cells were independent of the brain in psychiatric illness and made an exciting discovery. We identified immune cells as a new player in the brain pathology of schizophrenia,” Shannon Weickert added.

Current schizophrenia research has focused on the status of three brain cells: the neurons; the glial cells that support the neurons; and the endothelial cells that coat the blood vessels.

Employing new molecular techniques allowed Shannon Weickert and her team to identify the presence of a fourth cell, the macrophage, a type of immune cell in the brain tissue of people with schizophrenia who show high levels of inflammation.

“Immune cells have previously been ignored as they had long been viewed simply as travelers just thought to be passing by, undertaking surveillance work. They have never been a suspect until now,” Shannon Weickert said. “To find immune cells along the blood brain barrier in increased amounts in people with schizophrenia is an exciting discovery. It suggests immune cells themselves may be producing these inflammatory signals in the brains of people living with schizophrenia. We have observed in people with schizophrenia, the glial cells, one of the local residents, become inflamed and produce distress signals which change the status of the endothelial cells. We think this may cause the endothelial cells to extend sticky tentacles, so when the immune cells travel by some are captured. These cells may transmigrate across the blood brain barrier entering the brain in greater amounts in some people with schizophrenia compared to people without the disorder.”

This discovery shows that specific immune cells are in the brains of some people with schizophrenia in close enough proximity to the neurons to do damage.

Peter Schofield, CEO of NeuRA, said this innovative new research has the ability to possibly alter the diagnosis and treatment schizophrenia.

“This breakthrough demonstrates the value of the NSW Government’s support for Professor Shannon Weickert as NSW Chair of Schizophrenia Research, which has delivered new insights that the community seeks,” Schofield said.

Shannon Weickert is encouraging a cross-collaborative approach between neuroscientists and immunologists globally, to work together to develop treatments targeting this abnormal immune pathology of schizophrenia.

“This opens whole new avenues for therapy, because it suggests that the pathology of schizophrenia could be within the immune cells and the immune cells could be contributing to the symptoms of schizophrenia,” Shannon Weickert concluded.


**Comment**  LLMD, Dr. Horowtiz, goes on record stating that antibiotics are effective in Schizophrenia. With irony he points out that the authors attribute the reason minocycline helped these patients is due to its ability to affect glutamate pathways in the CNS, blocking nitric oxide-induced neurotoxicity, and inflammation in the brain. He reminds them that minocycline is a tetracycline antibiotic that very well may be treating an infection. He also emphatically states that he has had several schizophrenic patients test positive for Bb, the agent of Lyme Disease. After taking doxycycline they improved significantly and with the help of their psychiatrist, were able to reduce and in some cases eliminate all of their antipsychotic medication. It is important to note that patients remained stable on antibiotics but their symptoms returned if they stopped treatment.  BTW:  Mino was one of the most effective meds for my neuro issues and severe occipital headaches.  It crosses the blood brain barrier.  In this presentation, Dr. Markes questions if psychiatric disorders are inflammatory diseases. She lists: Autism, Alzheimer’s, Schizophrenia, Bipolar, PTSD, Depression, Stress, Sleep Deprivation, Self-harm, and Suicide Attempts. She also describes a study in England observing children for over a decade in which children with a high IL-8 at age 8 have an 81% change of developing depression by age 18 and a 2-fold chance of becoming psychotic.  

She states that TBI’s (Tick Borne Illness) causes an impaired Hypopituitary Axis (HPA) which on a chronic basis decreases cortisol and increases inflammation.

Neurotoxins in the brain contribute to mental illness by causing problems with Homosysteine metabolism, which supresses remethylation, but that apoptosis (cell death) can be reversed by supplementing with SamE.

She says Post Treatment Lyme Syndrome (PTLS) is like a “dog whistle,” and usually demonstrates a bias on behalf of the authors who believe that 3 weeks of antibiotics cures LD. She then goes on to tell of a study that revealed that nearly 50% of those labeled as PTLS (with persistent symptoms) had anti-brain antibodies compared to 16.5% of Post Treatment Healthy Controls (no symptoms).

Depersonalization, Violence, self-harm, and schizophrenia can be a part of the picture with TBI’s. At 41:20 she tells the story of a little girl who would throw horrific temper tantrums in which she would destroy her room and then feel absolutely horrible after the fact. She also had a psychotic episode. Her MSIDS testing came back flagrantly positive.