Patricia Zunszain

patricia.zunszain@kcl.ac.uk

+44 (0)20 7848 0352

Biography

After obtaining a PhD in Organic Chemistry in my native Argentina, I came to the UK to do post-doctoral work in Medicinal Chemistry at University College London, which was then followed by Biophysics research at Imperial College. In 2007 I joined the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Neuroscience (IoPPN), where I am now working on translating basic science findings into clinically relevant outcomes.

My research focuses on elucidating underlying mechanisms of mood disorders as well as looking for biomarkers that can follow disease and predict response. I use cellular models to mimic brain function, as well as saliva and blood clinical samples to study different psychiatric disorders. The ultimate aim of my research is to provide a basis for improved treatment.

 

2015 Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN) Post-graduate skills coordinator
2013 Deputy Lead, Training and Capacity Development Cluster, NIHR Mental Health Biomedical Research Centre & Dementia Unit
2012 Lecturer, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, UK
2007 Post-doctoral Research Worker, Section of Stress, Psychiatry and Immunology, Division of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, UK
2002 Research Associate, Biophysics Group, Division of Cell & Molecular Biology, Imperial College London, UK
1999 Postdoctoral Research Fellow. Department of Chemistry, University College London
1993 Post-doctoral Teaching fellow, Department of Organic Chemistry, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina


PhD in Organic Chemistry, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina

I have a particular interest in the role of inflammation and stress in depression, with the aim of providing new pharmacological targets to design more effective medication. I provided the first demonstration that IL-1β (a cell signalling protein (cytokine) that is increased in depression) is detrimental to the generation of new brain cells in the hipposcampus by activating neurotoxic pathways in the brain, and found that targeting this pathway could provide a new therapy.

I have also shown that monoaminergic antidepressant and polyunsaturated fatty acids (fish oils) have differential effects on immune processes in human brain cells, indicating that a further characterisation of these actions may enable more effective personalisation of treatment based on the inflammatory status of patients. I am now using these hippocampal progenitor cells to look at the role of interferon-alpha, a cytokine used to treat Hepatitis C but which causes depressive symptoms in a high proportion of patients.

In addition I am studying the role of oxidative stress, which can induce apoptotic and necrotic cell death in the brain, as a model to describe molecular changes underlying neurodegeneration. This area aims to find cross-diagnostic underlying molecular mechanisms relevant to multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, tauopathies and age-related macular degeneration, all of which have been associated with chronic neuroinflammation. My most recent work on the molecular aspects underlying the fast-acting antidepressant action of ketamine uses the new technology of human induced-pluripotent stem cells.

My work on biomarkers includes using saliva samples to follow the stress response by evaluating changes in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in a wide group of different patient populations. I am also looking at overall changes in blood levels of cytokines, and at the crosstalk between the immune system, the HPA axis and the endocannabinoid system, a homeostatic signalling system with neuromodulatory properties. 

Additionally, I have a strong interest in developing young researchers, academically and as individuals. In this capacity, I am Deputy Lead of the Training and Capacity Development Cluster, NIHR Mental Health Biomedical Research Centre & Dementia Unit and Postgraduate Skills Coordinator for the IoPPN.

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Disorders of affect & addiction

Addressing disorders characterised by difficulties in the regulation of emotions (e.g. anxiety disorders and depression) and impulses (e.g. substance use and eating disorders), which frequently occur together and with other disorders.
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Training & development

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