A prestigious NHMRC Investigator Grant worth $1.5M announced recently is allowing Distinguished Professor Xu-Feng Huang to further his research towards better treatments for schizophrenia.

Professor Huang’s research program is investigating the neuropathology and side-effects induced by antipsychotic drugs in schizophrenia. Current treatment largely relies on pharmacotherapy (drug treatment) which does not directly address the fundamental neuropathology and can cause severe metabolic side effects such as obesity and cardiovascular disease. Metabolic syndrome is responsible for more than 50% of mortality in schizophrenia patients.

“My overall goal is to improve patient treatment outcomes. To do that our research program aims to identify new therapeutic solutions to address the brain’s nervous system for people with schizophrenia.” Said Professor Huang.

He takes a top-down approach taking the most relevant clinical questions to laboratory, which are that new drugs should directly address the pathology, and reduce metabolic and cortical thinning side effects.

To date the team has invented some new compounds for drugs, modified existing compounds, and investigated the application of smart electrical stimulation in the brain, in collaboration with the Intelligent Polymer Research Institute (IPRI) led by his colleague Distinguished Professor Gordon Wallace.  

Professor Huang’s team has been able to prevent and treat neurite and synaptic spine pathology, a known symptom of schizophrenia, in preclinical trials. They have shown a chemical imbalance contributes to this pathology and by modifying this imbalance, neurite and synaptic spine deficits can be reduced, and the behaviour rodent models relevant to schizophrenia largely improved.

With this new injection of funds from the NHMRC Professor Huang will be able to continue through to 2024 combining the pathology research and investigation of new drugs.

 XuFeng Huang and Colleague NHMRC story WIDE

Prof. Huang (pictured left above) regularly visits psychiatry hospitals as part of his research and has developed an extensive collaboration with clinicians nationally and internationally.  His research program is constructed with careful considerations of a likely clinical translation for the benefit to patients in the near future.