Mood disorders and suicide are major public health concerns. Major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability and adult suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States. Suicide is an even larger problem in teenagers, ranking as the second or third leading cause of death in the adolescent population. The Mood Disorders and Suicide Research in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago is directed by Professor Ghanshyam N. Pandey.
Professor Pandey’s research focuses on studies of neurotransmitters and receptor-linked signaling systems in the pathophysiology of mood disorders and suicide. He has demonstrated abnormalities of β-adrenergic and serotonin2A (5HT2A) receptors in the peripheral cells of depressed and suicidal patients, and using the postmortem brain samples from depressed and suicidal subjects, he has shown that the protein and mRNA expression of 5HT2A are significantly decreased in the postmortem brain of depressed and suicide subjects. Dr. Pandey has also studied the role of adenylyl cyclase (AC), phosphoinositide (PI), and the Wnt signaling pathways in the pathophysiology of mood disorders, using both peripheral cells as well as postmortem brain samples. He has shown that the specific isoforms of protein kinase C (PKC) are decreased in the platelets of bipolar patients compared with normal control subjects and this decreased in the expression of the PKC subunits are associated with decreased PKC activity. He has also shown abnormalities of PKC in the postmortem brain obtained from teenage and adult suicide victims, and from subjects with major depression and bipolar illness.
The primary focus of the Mood Disorders and Suicide Research is to conduct research directed toward greater understanding of the neurobiology of these disorders, which might help in early identification, treatment, and development of more appropriate therapeutic agents. To achieve this, researchers in this program conduct neurobiological research on materials (i.e., tissue, fluids) obtained from patients with mood disorders, with or without suicidal behavior. The research is also conducted on well-characterized postmortem brain samples from subjects with mood disorders who died of natural causes or by suicide.
A wide range of neurobiological studies, including molecular mechanism of receptor functions, cellular signaling, and gene regulation are evaluated using state of the art techniques. Recently, the focus of these studies includes understanding the role of neuroimmune and neuroendocrine functions in mood disorders and suicide. For that purpose, cytokines and toll-like receptors are studied to examine the role of the immune function, and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis genes are studied to examine the role of neuroendocrine function in mood disorders.