Monsheel Sodhi, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology, is examining a protein called the serotonin 2C receptor as a possible predictor for the United States of America’s eleventh leading cause of death: suicide. Serotonin 2C is a signaling protein essential to the regulation of the neurotransmitter serotonin which corresponds with feelings of happiness and well being.
A majority of individuals who commit suicide suffer from depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia- disorders all effected by dysfunctions of serotonin emission. These may be able to be contributed to another protein Sodhi is investigating, ADAR. ADAR seems to inhibit the activity of the serotonin 2C protein when serotonin is absent.
Through a grant from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), Sodhi and a team of scientists from the National Institutes of Health are conducting a study of post-mortem brain tissues. Three subject groups include those who never committed suicide and were never diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, those with a psychiatric disorder who did not commit suicide, and finally those who committed suicide. By measuring changes in RNA, they are looking for altered levels of ADARs and serotonin 2C.
Sodhi is hoping for the information to lead to the development of diagnostic tests that could predict those patients who are most at risk for suicide and those who would respond well to particular therapies.