Cardiff University Immunopsychiatry Research Clinic
The Cardiff University Psychiatry Service (CUPS) has recently started a new specialist Immunopsychiatry Research Clinic. The Clinic will be based at the Hadyn Ellis Outpatients and will be led by Professor Neil Harrison. The service will focus on developing personalised therapies for people with treatment-resistant depression who have (or are believed to have) raised systemic inflammation.
What is Immunopsychiatry?
Immunopsychiatry is a new branch of psychiatry that focuses on the two-way relationship between the immune system (which is responsible for protecting the body from infections and injury) and the brain.
Research shows that the immune system, and particularly a type of immune activation called inflammation, plays a role in a number of common mental illnesses. It appears particularly important for mood disorders where up to 1 in 3 people show evidence of increased inflammation using a blood test called CRP. Recently, studies of anti-inflammatory drugs have also suggested that they may help some people with depression. For more details see Textbook of Immunopsychiatry
How will the Immunopsychiatry clinic help patients in Cardiff?
Recent studies have indicated that people with depression and raised inflammation tend to respond poorly to commonly prescribed antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). On the other hand, they tend to respond better to drugs targeting noradrenaline or dopamine. Thus, the clinic will initially aim to optimize the pharmacological treatment of people experiencing mood disorders who have evidence of raised inflammation. The clinic will initially focus on helping people with:
- Affective disorders in the context of a medical illness with an inflammatory cause e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease
- Treatment-resistant depression or bipolar disorder with confirmed inflammation (CRP>3)
Establishing Cardiff as a leader in Immunopsychiatry
Immunopsychiatry has emerged as an important research priority for international research funders. It has also motivated major pharmaceutical companies to begin to reinvest in mental health research.
Close links with the Cardiff Immunopsychiatry Group, which has played a leading role in the international development of Immunopsychiatry, will help establish Cardiff as a ‘go to’ site for trials of novel immunotherapies. This will ensure that Cardiff patients will be amongst the first to potentially benefit from these new therapies.
By explicitly linking physical and mental health, immunopsychiatry is also helping reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. For a patient’s perspective on this approach see this BBC 10 O’Clock News feature:
How do I get more information?
The Immunopsychiatry Research Clinic will operate as a Cardiff tertiary referral outpatient-based service with referrals accepted from within Cardiff and Vale Health Board.
To find out more or to make a referral please contact: