HSC gets $6 million to expand clinical studies of depression

The MOOD-CNS Program is directed by principal investigator Jair Soares, M.D.

A total of 120 children and 240 adults from the San Antonio area are needed to participate in four new studies of depression supported by federal grants at the Health Science Center.

The studies will join 10 others conducted by the Mood Disorders Clinical Neurosciences (MOOD-CNS) Program in the Health Science Center’s department of psychiatry/division of mood and anxiety disorders. Call (210) 258-5365 to inquire about patient eligibility.

The MOOD-CNS Program, directed by principal investigator Jair Soares, M.D., received $6.1 million this year from the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to study pediatric and adult bipolar disorder. One of the grants calls for research on the clinical spectrum of bipolar disorder, with a focus on milder, less-studied forms of the disorder.

“We need patients for several studies across the age range,” Dr. Soares said. “Some studies call for children as young as 8. Patients receive free psychiatric evaluation, and, if they qualify, free care including medication.”

The MOOD-CNS Program is examining the neurobiology of mood disorders and the action of mood-disorder medications. Investigators are using state-of-the-art research tools, including brain imaging techniques at the Health Science Center’s Research Imaging Center.

Studies also are ongoing to determine the genetic underpinnings of depression, bipolar disorder and other abnormalities. “Probably several genes are involved in these disorders and interact with environmental stressors,” Dr. Soares said. “These genes are yet to be identified.”

Patients are seen at the MOOD-CNS offices in the Carrington Medical Building, 3939 Medical Drive (near Horizon Hill Boulevard).

“We are interested in enrolling some families in which the illness runs,” Dr. Soares said. “We want to characterize the members who have a disorder and those who don’t. Studying the unaffected members as well as the patients gives us clues that may lead to earlier diagnosis. We want to predict who is most likely to develop a mood disorder.”

Research Imaging Center technologies such as functional magnetic resonance imaging can be used to identify subtle differences between the brains of affected individuals and those who are unaffected. The imaging instruments also can help researchers track changes that occur in the brain as medications reverse or slow the disorders.

“We know these are illnesses of the brain,” Dr. Soares said. “We are now beyond the time when we thought these disorders were caused by weakness in a person’s character. There is a lot of demonstration from our own studies and others’ work that patients suffering from bipolar disorder and depression do have detectable, subtle changes in their brains in certain areas that control mood. This is an important new area of research.”

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