Thomas Franke, M.D., Ph.D., New York University School of Medicine
Standard Research Grant (2012): $75,000
Modeling 5-HT1A Receptor Transduction Pathways in Suicide
Bio: Dr. Franke received his first medical degree from the Medical University of Lübeck in Germany in 1992, and his second medical degree and doctoral degree from Justus Liebig University in Germany in 1995. He is currently an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Pharmacology at the New York University School of Medicine.
Grant research area: Depression, genetics, and treatment response in relation to suicide.
Abstract: Chronic stress has been found to affect the biochemistry of the brain. Some types of changes are in the serotonin system and have been identified in postmortem brain studies of depressed individuals who have died by suicide. Akt is one such serotonin related brain chemical. Dr. Franke will use his grant to try to recreate, in genetically modified mice, the brain changes in the Akt protein that have been found in post-mortem studies of depressed suicide victims. He will use a behavioral model of depression in mice that is based on a chronic stress model. He will test the importance and relevance of brain and behavioral changes to depression and suicide, as well as to resilience and resistance, when confronted with chronic stress.
Long-term goals: To define the brain circuitry in mental disorders and suicide using animal genetic modeling. Dr. Franke seeks to understand ways to increase resilience and provide protection from and resistance to the effects of chronic stress. An additional goal is to have an experimental model system to test pharmacological and behavioral interventions for their effectiveness to prevent the damaging effects of chronic stress, including suicide.