Monsheel Sodhi, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the UAB Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology, says it is generally perceived that suicide tends to run in families. Genes, which are the blueprint for a cell’s formation, use proteins to carry out their instructions. Sodhi is examining the role of specific proteins in the brain to develop a test that potentially could identify those at highest risk so they could be steered to therapy.
Funded by a grant from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), Sodhi is investigating a protein called the serotonin 2C receptor. Scientists refer to it as a signaling protein, one of several that are responsible for the proper functioning of serotonin, a chemical in the brain that regulates feelings of well-being and happiness. Serotonin 2C interacts with anti-depressant drugs such as Prozac, which are thought to treat depression by boosting serotonin signalling.
“Most people who attempt or complete suicide have an underlying psychiatric illness, such as depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia,” said Sodhi. “An imbalance in serotonin is one factor thought to contribute to such illnesses. The imbalance might be caused by low production of serotonin or inability of cells to receive it or even a problem in the pathways in which serotonin signals travel.”
That leads Sodhi to a second type of protein called ADAR, which seems to inhibit the activity of the serotonin 2C protein when serotonin is absent. Simply put, too much ADAR leads to too little serotonin 2C signaling.
“It appears that the ADARs switch serotonin 2C partially off in critical brain regions, perhaps altering the brain’s ability to interpret messages of happiness, pleasure and well-being,” Sodhi said. “That could contribute to psychiatric disorders such as depression, which most often is the underlying cause of suicide.”
The AFSP grant is enabling Sodhi to study serotonin 2C and ADAR proteins in post-mortem brain tissue. Sodhi is working with a team of scientists at the National Institutes of Health who have collected brain tissue from 500 people, divided into three groups. The first is a control group of some 200 people who never attempted suicide and had no diagnosis of a psychiatric disorder. A second group comprises people with a psychiatric disorder who did not commit suicide, and the third comprises people who committed suicide.
“We’re looking at altered levels of ADARs and serotonin 2C by measuring changes in messenger RNA,” said Sodhi. “If we find mutations in the ADARs that seem to correspond with an increased likelihood of suicide, this information could lead to the development of diagnostic tests that could predict those patients who are most at risk for suicide and those who would respond well to particular therapies.”
Simply knowing more about the role of ADARs and serotonin 2C in the development of mental illness could also boost suicide-prevention efforts. Untreated mental illness is a major cause of suicide, and Sodhi says that identifying a dysfunctional gene or protein provides scientists with new targets for the development of better drug treatments.About the UAB Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology
Bob Shepard | Newswise Science News
Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden
The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet
22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
22.09.2017 | Life Sciences
22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering
22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy