Massachusetts Life Sciences Center Invests in Women’s Health Research at Tufts

The award will support studies on sex differences in depression

Furthering research into depression in women and the drugs used to treat it, the Women’s Health Program of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) has awarded a grant to Jamie Maguire, a Kenneth and JoAnn G. Wellner Professor in the neuroscience department at Tufts University School of Medicine. She joins three other Tufts scientists awarded grants from the MLSC in 2021.

The Women’s Health Program is part of an MLSC initiative, started in 2020, to support collaborative research projects to improve women’s health. Women suffer from many diseases and disorders at a higher rate than men, but are largely underrepresented in clinical trials, including those looking at the biological mechanisms of depression. This has led to a lack of data that would help scientists to understand and properly treat these disorders in women.

The grant will support new research between the Maguire Lab and SAGE Therapeutics to study how antidepressant responses differ between men and women. “It is an honor to receive such a prestigious and highly sought-after award from the MLSC,” says Maguire.

Recently, Maguire and her lab found that in experiments with mice, allopregnanolone, a post-partum depression drug developed by SAGE Therapeutics, may provide long lasting antidepressant effects by changing how neurons communicate in a brain region important for mood and emotion regulation.

The award will help her group test how that work translates to humans, in part by allowing her to compare EEG data sets (records of brain activity) in mice to those of humans, looking at how brain states associated with depression differ across species and sex.

The grant has also enabled Maguire to hire Bradly Stone, a post-doctoral research fellow, who will implement new technical approaches in the lab, including imaging techniques to visualize cell types across neural networks. “I’m excited to work on this project to further understand how changes in communication between specific brain areas may increase susceptibility to depressive disorders,” he said.

This investment comes at a crucial time, when the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing mental health conditions, especially in women. Maguire believes information gained from the project will lead to “a deeper understanding of the mechanisms mediating potential sex differences in antidepressant responses.”

The MLSC is an economic development investment agency dedicated to supporting the growth and development of the life sciences in Massachusetts.

Alyssa DiLeo is a graduate student in neuroscience at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

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