News Archive 2022

Key translational project awarded by HRB to investigate novel strategy to combat drug-induced weight gain in patients with schizophrenia

14 Sep 2022
Dr Harriët Schellekens, Professor John F. Cryan, Dr Karen O’Connor, Professor Gerard Clarke

Congratulations to Dr Harriët Schellekens, Professor John Cryan, Dr Karen O’Connor, Professor Gerard Clarke and Ms Sinead Pierce, who’s joint project has been funded by the Health Research Board (HRB) as part of its Investigator-Led Projects (ILP) 2022 scheme.

The HRB funded project, based at APC Microbiome Ireland and the RISE service, will focus on a novel probiotic approach to target weight gain in patients taking antipsychotic medications. A postdoctoral researcher and a research assistant will be recruited for the duration of the project.

Schizophrenia is a mental illness associated with psychosis and treated with antipsychotic medication. These medications are very effective; however, they are associated with significant weight gain and metabolic disturbances. People with psychosis die 15-20 years earlier than the general population. The leading cause of 'years of life' lost in this population is poor physical health. Substantial body weight gain occurs in up to half of people during long-term antipsychotic treatment. Being overweight increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and developing many physical illnesses and cancers. Furthermore, being overweight and experiencing psychosis are associated with reduced self-esteem, reduced quality of life, and stigma. People taking antipsychotics regard weight gain as one of the most distressing side-effects caused by their medication and this negatively impacts medication adherence and quality of life.

‘This is a key translational project to investigate if a Bifidobacterium longum APC1472 probiotic supplement, previously shown to positively impact specific obesity markers (Schellekens, et al., EBiomedicine, 2021), can alleviate antipsychotic-induced metabolic side-effects. I am delighted to join my expertise in obesity and gut-brain axis research with the RISE Clinic’ commented Dr Harriet Schellekens’. Subject recruitment will be from the RISE service, an Early Intervention for Psychosis (EIP) National Clinical Programme in the Health Services Executive (HSE). ‘I’m delighted to join forces with the team at APC Microbiome Ireland on this project which addresses a really important and challenging clinical issue’ said Dr O’Connor, co-applicant and the National Clinical Lead for Early Intervention for Psychosis.

The project, awarded €369,912, is one out of four University College Cork-led projects that have been awarded combined funding of over €1.6m. They were four of 33 projects that received a combined €10m from the HRB under the scheme.

All funded projects were selected by an international panel of experts following a rigorous application process. As a matter of course, a public review was undertaken alongside the scientific peer review to assess whether the research is in the best interests of the patient or the general health of the population.

For more information on the HRB's Investigator-Led Projects (ILP) 2022 scheme visit HRB

Also link here.

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