The overarching focus of my laboratory is to understand the relationship between the regulation of mood and energy metabolism, with an emphasis on elucidating how molecules which regulate mood and reward centers in the brain, impact whole-body energy metabolism. Our approach is translational in nature as we want to understand why patients who present with mood disorders such as depression or psychosis are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease and diabetes. My research lies at the interface of neuroscience and endocrinology/metabolism and an important focus of our work is understanding the causes of medication induced disease, specifically by elucidating the pharmacology underlying the development of diabetes, dyslipidemia, bone loss and cardiovascular disease following treatment with psychiatric medications such as atypical antipsychotic (AA) drugs.
The pharmacology of AA medications is complex and the medication-induced dysregulation of whole body insulin sensitivity, bone biology and cardiac function requires an integrated biology/pharmacology perspective in order to tease out specific underlying mechanisms. We use rodent models of disease and in vitro pharmacology approaches to address our research questions —not only to inform future drug discovery/development efforts, but also to inform prescribing of co-therapies to ameliorate specific side effects in patients who rely on these medications. The need for this information is urgent, because despite the large patient population exposed to these medications, the increase in “off-label” prescribing to vulnerable populations and the growing awareness of the public health impact and the severity of antipsychotic-induced metabolic disease, there is a paucity of literature examining the pharmacological and molecular mechanisms underlying AA-induced metabolic disease.
Dr. Houseknecht is Professor of Pharmacology at the College of Osteopathic Medicine, University of New England.
Audience: Scientific and Medical Community.