Molecular Psychopharmacology Laboratory
Head: Associate Professor Suresh Sundram
About the Laboratory
The Molecular Psychopharmacology Laboratory aims to understand the molecular pathology of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. They hope to develop better markers and interventions. Associate Professor Suresh Sundram and his team investigate how psychotropic medications interact with receptors and intracellular signaling mechanisms in neurons.
Collaboration with the Northern Psychiatry Research Centre enables new knowledge to be tested in clinical populations and for clinical samples to be examined in the laboratory.
A unique pathway for clozapine
The team is looking at why one antipsychotic drug, clozapine, is effective in people for whom others are not, but can also cause drastic side effects. Research has described a novel pathway of action where clozapine interacts with the epidermal growth factor (EGF) system, which has a role in many of the brain processes thought to be disturbed in schizophrenia.
The team is now looking at which proteins clozapine activates in the brain in an attempt to explain its different effects. They are also screening patients to see whether it may be possible to perform a blood test that will determine whether a person is likely to respond well to Clozapine.
Lipoproteins and psychosis
People with schizophrenia have a much higher death rate from cardiovascular disease. The Northern Psychiatry Research Centre has shown that 60% of patients with chronic schizophrenia had metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors linked to diabetes and heart disease. Implications are being considered with a view to improving avenues for appropriate interventions.
Sensory integration in schizophrenia
People with schizophrenia tend to be selectively impaired on tests assessing visual integration. The group aims to find out whether this is a deficit of integration capacity, or is caused by slower rates of sensory processing. Researchers will also look at whether it only applies to vision or if similar problems exist in auditory and spatial integration.