Research group of translational neuropsychiatry

Research group of translational neuropsychiatry aims to identify valid translational markers for neuropsychiatric disorders. The current research is targeted into three major directions:

  1. Identification of blood biomarkers for different stages of schizophrenia. In collaboration with the Department of Psychiatry (Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Tartu) we are in the process of collecting of data from patients being in the different stages of disease. This includes prodrome state, first episode psychosis (FEP), and various stages of chronic disease. The research is performed in close collaboration with the research group of metabolomic and functional-structural phenotyping (prof. M.Zilmer, prof. U. Soomets). The existing studies underline relevance of epidermal growth factor (EGF) and taurine for demonstrating the altered oxidative stress and corrupted function of N-methyl-D-aspartate channels in FEP patients. 
  2. Iglon family cell adhesion molecules as the potential targets for neuropsychiatric disorders. Translational research involves both animal models (three knockout mice of Iglon family) and human research. Existing evidence from animal research demonstrates that the genetic invalidation of Iglon family proteins does not cause the neurodevelopmental disorders in mice, but the environmental and social adaptation is severly impaired in these adult animals. The preliminary evidence suggests the upregulation of neuronal growth regulator 1 (NEGR1) and neurotrimin (NTM) transcripts in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex of schizophrenic patients. This research involves collaboration with the research groups of mitochondrial medicine (prof. A. Kaasik) and molecular neurobiology (prof. T. Timmusk). 
  3. Characterization of Wfs1-deficient rats as the model of neuroendocrine disorders. Neuroendocrine alterations often accompany major psychiatric disorders. Diabetes and metabolic syndrome are frequent and common in the advanced stages of schizophrenia and depression. Existing evidence suggests that the mutations of wolframin (WFS1) gene convay risk for diabetes and psychiatric disorders. This was a reason to develop Wfs1-deficient rat model. The preliminary evidence suggests that the disturbances of glucose metabolism in these rats are closer to human pathology compared to the mouse model. Moreover, these rats diplay the features of increased emotional reactivity, most likely reflecting the alterations of CNS control of behaviour. This research involves collaboration with the research group of mitochondrial medicine (prof. A. Kaasik). 

The reserach group of translational psychiatry includes following scientists:
prof. V. Volke, senior research fellow H. Luuk, senior research fellow A. Terasmaa, senior research fellow M.-A. Philips, senior research fellow K. Lilleväli, senior research fellow K. Koido, senior research fellow S. Raud and research fellow J. Innos.

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