When scientists learned that PCP, also known as angel dust, can cause every single symptom of schizophrenia, they wondered if chemicals that have the opposite effect could fight mental disorders. That insight led to them to discover a new class of antipsychotic medications.
To understand how the recreational drug plays tricks on the mind, neuroscientists gave it to lab rats. Those researchers could counteract the strange behavior of their furry assistants by stimulating brain proteins called glutamate receptors. Big drug companies, including Eli Lilly, took note of that discovery and started searching for molecules that can push the same psychological buttons in humans.
In the Sept. 15 issue of Chemical and Engineering News, Carmen Drahl told that story, along with the tales of three other experimental medications that could turn the tide against schizophrenia. Each compound operates in a completely different way, and all of them have been tested on human volunteers.