Category: Faculty Spotlight
“Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have discovered what they believe to be a major brain mechanism responsible for a heightened state of anxiety and possibly depression. The study, published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, involves a protein called pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating peptide (PACAP), a hormone and molecule in the brain, and its relationship with anxiety and depression.
Anxiety disorders are a serious public health problem because they represent the most common mental disturbances in the United States and are responsible for almost one third of the total health care costs. In addition, depression often occurs together with anxiety disorder in patients.
In their study, the researchers were found to be able to induce feelings of anxiousness and depression in a preclinical model after administering PACAP. According to the researchers it was both surprising and very interesting to find that the same molecule could induce both anxious and depressive feelings.
Importantly, the scientists also found that the mechanism of the anxiety and depression-inducing effects of PACAP involves another important and well known molecule and hormone, called corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF). Indeed, when the authors provided PACAP to the model, they observed an increase in the production of CRF in two important regions of the brain, the hypothalamus and the amygdala. More importantly, when the authors introduced a substance that blocked the receptors of CRF, PACAP could no longer induce anxiety and depression.
“In humans, a dysfunction of the amygdala PACAP system may therefore be responsible for the development of conditions involving atypical responses to stressors, including generalized anxiety, PTSD and depression,” said senior study author Valentina Sabino, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology and psychiatry in the Department of Pharmacology at BUSM as well as co-director of the Laboratory of Addictive Disorders
Also contributing to this study were Riccardo Dore, PhD; Attilio Lemolo, PhD, Karen L. Smith, PhD, Xiaofan Wang PhD and Pietro Cottone, PhD. The Laboratory of Addictive Disorders at Boston University School of Medicine is continuing this line of research to better understand the neurobiology of the PACAP system, with the hope of ultimately developing new therapeutic agents for the treatment of these debilitating psychiatric diseases.
Funding for this study was provided by the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. In addition, funding was made available by the Peter Paul Career Development Professorship and by Boston University’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program.”
Originally published by Boston University School of Medicine
Shelley J. Russek, Ph.D. Participates in Transcriptomics: Assessing Genomic Networks in Normal and Diseased Brains Short Course at 2012 SfN Annual Meeting
Congratulations to Dr. Shelley J. Russek on her participation in “Transcriptomics: Assessing Genomic Networks in Normal and Diseased Brains” Short Course #1 at the 2012 Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting on October 12, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Dr. Russek co-chaired the Group 2 Breakout Session on “RNA-seq Insights into Complex Diseases.”
Dr. Russek is a Professor of Pharmacology, Director of the Laboratory for Translational Epilepsy and Director of the Graduate Program for Neuroscience at Boston University. She received her Ph.D. from Boston University School of Medicine.
For more information on Dr. Russek and research, please see her faculty profile .
Benjamin Wolozin completed his undergraduate education at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT. He earned his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, as part of the Medical Scientist Training Program. His postdoctoral fellowships were spent at Mt. Sinai Medical Center (1988-9) and the National Institute of Mental Health (1989–96). He joined Loyola University Medical Center in 1996 as an Associate Professor and rose to the rank of tenured full professor. He joined the Department of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics at Boston University School of Medicine in 2004 as a Professor and also holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Neurology.
Dr. Wolozin is member of the Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Center and the Boston University Parkinson’s disease and Movement Disorders Center. His interests focus on the pathophysiology of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. His work on Alzheimer’s disease examines the role of cholesterol in the pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease, and stems from his discovery in 2000 that subjects taking the cholesterol-lowering medicines, termed statins, have a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. His work on Parkinson’s disease examines the interaction between genes implicated in the disease, such as LRRK2 and alpha-synuclein, and environmental factors implicated in the disease. His work on ALS focuses on the response of RNA metabolism and protein translation to stress. He uses multiple approaches to study neurodegenerative disease, ranging from molecular approaches to epidemiology. These approaches include molecular biology, cellular biology, transgenic mice, transgenic C. elegans, study of human brain samples and epidemiological database analyses.
At present, Dr. Wolozin serves as the primary investigator for several funded studies including, LRRK2 and Neurodegeneration, Interaction between genes and mitochondria in Parkinson’s disease, Stress granules and the biology of TDP-43, Development of Opticogenetic switches for mitochondrial function, and LRRK2 interactions with pathways linked to protein folding and degradation.
Dr. Wolozin has received numerous awards for his research including the Donald B. Lindsley Prize, Society for Neuroscience, the A. E. Bennett Award and a Merit Award from Alzforum. He is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board for Proteotech Pharmaceuticals and CMD Bioscience LLC, and is on the executive board for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. He also serves on numerous editorial boards, including the Journal of Biological Chemistry and Neurodegenerative Diseases, and is a standing member of the NIH CMND study section.
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