Oxidative and Inflammatory Biomarkers as Targets for Novel Therapies – Prof Michael Berk

Posted on: May 22, 2016
Last Updated: September 24, 2017

Professor Michael Berk is currently an NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow, and is Alfred Deakin Chair of Psychiatry at Deakin University and Barwon Health, where he heads the IMPACT Strategic Research Centre. He also is an Honorary Professorial Research Fellow in the Department of Psychiatry, the Florey Institute for Neuroscience and Mental Health and Orygen Youth Health at Melbourne University, as well as in the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University. He is past president of the International Society for Bipolar Disorders and the Australasian Society or Bipolar and Depressive Disorders. He is an ISI highly cited researcher who has published over 800 papers predominantly in mood disorders. His major interests are in the discovery and implementation of novel therapies, and risk factors and prevention of psychiatric disorders.

Take Home Messages:

1. “We’ve got a real crisis in drug discovery in our discipline. (psychiatry)

2. “Drug discovery is at a near standstill for treating psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression and common forms of autism. (Steven Hyman, Former NIMH director)

3.  Eroom’s law: (Moore’s law spelt backwards)

  • Moore’s Law: The number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits doubles every year since their invention.
  • Eroom’s Law: The number of drugs discovered halves every year while the cost doubles.

4. There are three paths to drug discovery

  • Testing a single molecular target based on a sound pathophysiological basis. In psychiatry , however, the pathophysiology of major psychiatric disorders is not known and hence no drugs have been discovered in this way.
  • Targeting a byway that aims for a biological system or network e.g. oxidative stress and inflammation
  • Drug discovery through serendipitous clinical findings augmented by clinical observation. This is how most of psychopharmacological discoveries have taken place.

5. “Every single known risk factor that we have for major psychiatric disorders seems to be transduced through inflammation and oxidative stress.

Cytokine and oxidative stress (Copy)

6. Childhood bullying predicts adult inflammation.

According to the Copeland et al.,study:

Childhood bullying involvement as either a pure bully or victim predicted changes in CRP levels that lasted into adulthood. Although CRP levels rose for all participants across this period, being bullied predicted greater increases in CRP levels, whereas bullying others predicted lower increases in CRP compared with those uninvolved in bullying. These long-term effects were robust to adjustment for BMI, substance use, childhood physical and mental health status, and exposures to other early-life psychosocial adversities. Inflammation is a plausible mechanism by which bullying involvement may affect short- and long-term health status.


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