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Dr. Javier Gonzalez-Maeso joins the Department of Physiology and Biophysics


Dr. Gonzalez-Maeso joined the faculty at VCU in July 2015 coming from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. He is particularly interested in basic molecular mechanisms responsible for psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, depression, alcoholism and drug abuse. He uses in vitro interdisciplinary approaches and in vivo mouse models. His team also validates preclinical findings with assays in postmortem human brain samples.

Dr. Gonzalez-Maeso is an expert on G Protein-Coupled Receptor (GPCR) pharmacology and function. He studies span the entire spectrum from biophysics and molecular biology to behavioral models of psychosis. He teaches graduate students in basic neuropsychopharmacology, mechanism of action and pharmacology of antipsychotic and antidepressant drugs, and preclinical models of psychiatric disorders. While in New York he was part of a program at Mount Sinai in which residents participated in a physician scientist track (residents combining clinical training with bench work in research labs).

He identified a novel and unexpected basic mechanism by which serotonin and glutamate GPCRs interact molecularly with one another, and showed that this interaction is dysregulated in the brain of schizophrenia patients (Nature 2008). This article received enough citations to place it in the top 1% of its academic field.

His research has successfully explored epigenetics and gene-environment interactions. His group’s epigenetic findings in mouse and postmortem human brain related to the limited effects of Eli Lilly's glutamate antipsychotics (Nat Neurosci 2012) have been validated clinically in schizophrenia patients. His more recent work has focused on the epigenetic target histone deacetylase type 2 (HDAC2). His group has shown that SAHA (non-selective HDAC inhibitor that is FDA-approved for cancer therapy) induces robust antipsychotic-like behaviors in mice and improves cognitive deficits. This opens the possibility of testing this drug as adjunctive treatment in schizophrenia patients who do not respond to antipsychotic treatment.

His group has created two mouse schizophrenia models of environmental adverse life events during pregnancy: maternal influenza viral infection, and maternal variable and unpredictable stress (J Neurosci 2011 and J Neurosci 2013). The main conclusion in these two manuscripts has been validated in at least eight publications by independent research groups.

Related to postmortem human brain samples, he has been the first several times to publish functional alterations in postmortem samples. These include G protein-coupling in mood disorders (Mol Psychiatry 2002), repressive histone modifications at certain promoter regions (Nat Neurosci 2012), and dysregulation of NF-B sub-cellular trafficking in cortical neurons. His team has access to a brain bank in Europe with more than 1,000 postmortem tissue samples.

In the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at VCU School of Medicine, his research group focused on GPCRs and Molecular Psychiatry will share mutual interests with strong departmental research programs in Cardiovascular and Gastrointestinal Physiology as well as in Chemical Senses.

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