Can protein levels in the brain predict early stages of psychosis?

Author: Sofia Ruiz-Sierra

Editors: Chloe Rybicki-Kler, Emily Eberhardt, & Madeline Barron

Illustrator: Jacquelyn Roberts

Imagine a world where doctors had no way of measuring blood pressure. They would have a hard time determining how hard your heart is working or whether you were at risk for serious conditions, like heart disease or stroke. Blood pressure is an example of a biological marker, or biomarker. Simply put, biomarkers provide insights into your health status.

Similarly to how blood pressure serves as a biomarker for heart health, biomarkers may also be critical in understanding psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia. These biomarkers would allow researchers to obtain objective and reproducible measures to prevent, diagnose, and treat psychotic disorders. Providing an accurate diagnosis to patients increases their opportunities for early treatment and improved prognosis. However, identifying reliable biomarkers that allow scientists to understand and quantify complex cognitive disorders is complicated, as results are often inconclusive. Nevertheless, over the past decade, a brain protein called the Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) has emerged as a potential biomarker for cognitive deficits in psychotic disorders. 

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IPF: Stubborn Scars in Stiff Lungs

Written and illustrated by: Fa Wang

Edited by: Jennifer Baker, Zechariah Pfaffenberger, Olivia Pifer Alge, & Madeline Barron

Imagine a healthy 50-year-old man had a dry cough that wouldn’t go away. His cough disrupted meetings, interviews, and even prevented him from getting sleep. He visited his doctor, who diagnosed him with a cold and sent him home with antibiotics. Not only did his cough persist, the man also started having an insidious shortness of breath with activity, and occasional severe chest pain. He went back to the doctor, who sent him home with more antibiotics. Months later, his symptoms still were not better, and he started having trouble walking up stairs because he felt like he couldn’t breathe. He went back to the doctor, time after time, for additional tests. After 18 months, he was finally diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a disease he had never heard of before. He was shocked to realize that he had only 3 to 5 years to live.

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