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The award will allow Dr Mosienko to study star-shaped brain cells – known as astrocytes – and their role in depression etiology

Prestigious £900,000 award to investigate underlying mechanisms of depression

An award of £900k will allow research at the University of Exeter to investigate the underlying mechanisms involved in depression.

Dr Valentina Mosienko from the University of Exeter Medical School has won one of 15 highly competitive grants from the Medical Research Council Career Development Award.

The award, covering five years, will allow Dr Mosienko to study star-shaped brain cells – known as astrocytes – and their role in depression etiology.

Dr Mosienko said “I’m honoured to receive the grant to investigate this important area of research. Depression is a devastating illness affecting one in four people in the UK. It is not fully understood still, with antidepressants commonly being prescribed, but only being effective in one third of patients. 

“The funding will allow me to build a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms that drive the onset of depressive symptoms.  The results of my work will pave the way towards developing new effective antidepressant treatments with the ultimate aim to reduce the burden to relatives, carers and society and more importantly alleviate everyday suffering in patients”.

This research works as part of a collaboration with, clinical experts in the field and world leading research centres Max-Delbrueck Center for Molecular Medicine (Germany) and the Friedman Brain Institute. Mount Sinai Hospital (USA) and it’s supported by the mental health charity Rethink Mental Illness.

The research builds on Dr Mosienko’s preliminary investigation which found a reduction in a by-product the star-shaped astrocyte cells produce, known as lactate, exacerbates depression symptoms. Astrocytes control various processes in the brain such as energy consumption and the balance of water. They can also directly communicate with neurons to control brain functions like memory, sleep and attention.

Using novel experimental approaches Dr Mosienko will test the link between lactate and depression to discover how lactate contributes to the regulation of mood.

Date: 29 October 2020

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