Einstein and Montefiore researchers received $ 7.6 million in NIH grants to study depression in people with HIV


The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have now awarded the prize to researchers Albert Einstein College of medicine and Montefiore health system two five-year scholarships totaling $ 7.6 million to study the structural and chemical changes in the brain of people with HIV, depression, and cannabis use.

“Given the health inequalities associated with both a mental health diagnosis and HIV-positive status, we hope that our findings represent an important step in promoting health equity in the community Bronx and across the country, “said Vilma Gabbay, MD, MS, Co-director of Research Institute for Psychiatry in Montefiore Einstein and co-principal examiner on both grants.

Cannabis use and depression in people with HIV
The first research project, funded by a five-year, $ 4 million Grant, 280 people aged 18-34 will enroll living with HIV. Some of the participants will be depressed and use cannabis regularly. Researchers will use neuroimaging, including functional MRI, to examine brain circuits related to reward and pain to better understand their links to depression and substance use disorders in this population group. The main examiners of the scholarship are Dr. Gabbay, Anjali Sharma, MD, MS, associate professor of medicine at Einstein and internist and specialist in infectious diseases at Montefiore; and Joanna Starrels, MD, MS, associate professor of medicine with Einstein and internist and specialist in addiction medicine with Montefiore.

“Our collaborative project involves depression, HIV, addiction medicine and neuroimaging experts who will examine the role of neural mechanisms in understanding the relationship between cannabis use and depression in people with HIV,” said Dr. Gabbay, who is also an associate professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and in the Dominick P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience at Einstein. “We hope to identify specific biomarkers of depression and develop better treatments.”

Understanding depression in people with HIV
The second project, which will be funded over five years, $ 3.6 million Grant studies how the immune system, brain circuitry, and neurochemicals interact in people with HIV. The investigators, led by Dr. Gabbay and Dr. Sharma, who lead the research group on HIV and Mental Health at the Einstein-Rockefeller-CUNY Center for AIDS Research, hope to untangle this complex system to understand why these people are more prone to depression.

The Einstein-Montefiore researchers believe that inflammation of the central nervous system (CNS) from HIV leads to two side effects: chemicals known as free radicals damage the nerves of the CNS and levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) – a well-known one Neurotransmitters have a calming effect – are reduced. These neurochemical changes are thought to cause depression.

“If we can confirm that this chain of events leads to depression,” said Dr. Gabbay, “we may be able to develop treatment strategies that can ward off depression in HIV-infected people – possibly by blocking the inflammatory proteins that accompany HIV infection.”

The researchers will include 300 people living with and without HIV. At the start of the study, participants will be tested for depression or anxiety, past psychiatric trauma, HIV treatment, and CD4 + T cells (a type of T cells affected by HIV infection). The tests are repeated after six and twelve months.

The first grant, entitled “The Neural Underpinnings of Depression and Cannabis Use in Young PLWH,” was awarded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health (1R01DA054885-01). The second grant, originally titled “The Neuroimmunology of Depression in Women Living With HIV,” was awarded by the National Institute of Mental Health, part of the National Institutes of Health (1R01MH128878-01).

About the Montefiore health system
Montefiore health system is one of New Yorks leading academic health systems and is a recognized leader in providing exceptional quality and personalized, responsible care to approximately three million people in communities across Bronx, Westchester and the Hudson Valley. It consists of 10 hospitals including the Children’s hospital in Montefiore, Burke Rehabilitation Hospitaland more than 200 outpatient outpatient care facilities. The advanced clinical and translational research at its medical school, Albert Einstein College of medicine, directly informs patient care and improves outcomes. From the Montefiore-Einstein Centers of Excellence in Cancer, Cardiology and Vascular Care, Pediatrics and Transplantation to its stellar school health program, Montefiore is a fully integrated health care system that provides coordinated, comprehensive care to patients and their families. For more information, please visit www.montefiore.org. follow us on Twitter and Instagram and LinkedIn, or watch us Facebook and Youtube.

Above Albert Einstein College of medicine
Albert Einstein College of medicine is one of the country’s leading centers for research, medical education, and clinical research. In the 2020-21 academic year, Einstein is home to 721 MD Students, 178 Ph.D. Students, 109 students in the combined MD / Ph.D. program, and 265 Postdoc research fellows. The College of Medicine has more than 1,900 full-time faculty members on and off the main campus clinical partner. In 2020 Einstein received more than $ 197 million in awards from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This includes funding large Research centers at Einstein in the areas of aging, intellectual development disorders, diabetes, cancer, clinical and translational research, liver disease and AIDS. Other areas the College of Medicine is focusing its efforts on include brain development, neuroscience, heart disease, and initiatives to reduce and eliminate ethnic and racial health inequalities. His partnership with Montefiore, the university hospital and academic medical center for Einstein, is driving clinical and translational research to accelerate the pace of new discoveries into treatments and therapies that benefit patients. Einstein runs one of the largest assistant and fellowship training programs in the medical and dental professions in The United States through Montefiore and a partner network with hospitals and medical centers in the Bronx, Brooklyn and further long Island. For more information, please visit www.montefiore.org. follow us on Twitter and Instagram and LinkedIn, or watch us Facebook and Youtube.

SOURCE Montefiore Health System


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