The bottom line is that schizophrenia afflicts almost 1% of adults worldwide, it first presents in early adulthood, and due to its leading to cognitive impairment and social withdrawal, is overrepresented in homeless and indigent populations. Current drugs are good at reducing schizophrenia symptoms, but side effects like weight gain cause patients to stop taking them.
The excitement over this new type of drug is that it targets an entirely different system in the brain. In stead of blocking dopamine, the new drug blocks glutamate an amino acid that is also a neurotransmitter. You might remember hearing that dopamine is active in the pleasure centers of the brain, but it also is used for balance control, memory and attention. Glutamate is no less important than dopamine, and is important for personality control, learning and memory.
With glutamate's importance, why weren't there the same side effects for this drug? The answer lies in how the drug works. It targets a specific receptor for glutamate, the mGlu2/3 receptor, which accroding to the Nature press release,
is involved in a feedback loop controlling glutamate release, and therefore only works when the glutamate system is very active — bouts of high activity in this system are suspected to be one of the hallmarks of the disease.Other than this, the scientists don't know exactly how the new drug produces its antipsychotic actions. I expect this is usual with new phych meds. What of the link to angel dust? Evidently, scientists clued into glutamate as a target for schizophrenia because PCP can induce psychotic symptoms in those that are not schizophrenic. PCP was also known to interfere with the glutamate signaling system.