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Neuroprotection in neuropsychiatric disease
Erythropoietin will serve as an example for neuroprotection in neuropsychiatric disease. Prerequisites for its application in a first neuroprotective add-on strategy in schizophrenia, aiming at improvement of cognitive brain function as well as prevention / slowing of degenerative processes will be described. Rodent studies, immunohistochemical analysis of human brain tissue and nuclear imaging technology were used to show that: (1) rhEPO efficiently penetrates into the brain, (2) rhEPO is enriched intracranially in healthy and even more in schizophrenic men, (3) EPO receptors are densely expressed in hippocampus and cortex of schizophrenic patients but almost absent in healthy controls, and (4) peripherally administered rhEPO enhances cognitive functioning in mice in the context of an aversion task involving cortical and subcortical pathways believed to be affected in schizophrenia. These observations, together with the known safety of EPO, render it an interesting compound for neuroprotective add-on strategies in schizophrenia and possibly other neurodegenerative diseases with a progressive decline in cognitive performance.