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Department of Biological Sciences

Tricia Simon receives a graduate student award at Discover USC

Tricia Simon, a PhD student in the lab of Dr. Rekha Patel, was awarded a graduate student award at Discover USC for her presentation of her research project. Recent research has indicated that dysregulated eIF2a signaling is one of the convergent mechanisms causing several primary dystonias, a heterogeneous group of movement disorders. Tricia investigates whether the dysregulation of the integrated stress response pathway (ISR) might also be involved in secondary dystonias, with a particular focus on drug-induced dystonia. Dystonia is indeed observed as a side effect during antipsychotic therapy and causes patients to often discontinue their medications. Tricia tested the ability of a few antipsychotic drugs currently in use for anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder to modulate the ISR pathway. She analyzed the induction of ATF4,  a transcription factor whose expression is induced when eIF2a is phosphorylated under ISR conditions. Tricia's results indicate that antipsychotic drugs alter the ISR by either changing the intensity or the duration of the response. Based on previous research on the primary dystonia dystonia-16 by the Patel lab, Tricia further tested the ability of a natural plant flavonoid, luteolin, to restore normal ISR in the presence of antipsychotics. Her results indicate that luteolin can alleviate the ISR dysregulation caused by antipsychotic drugs, thereby suggesting its possible application in avoiding drug-induced dystonia. Great work!

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