student profile: Mr Oliver Tan


Thesis work

Thesis title: Development of an Oxytocin Circuit Stimulator

Supervisors: Iain MCGREGOR , Michael BOWEN

Thesis abstract:

The neuropeptide oxytocin plays an important role in regulating stress and anxiety responses as well as a range of social behaviours including social bonding, maternal behaviour and social interaction. As such, the oxytocin system has gained considerable interest as a potential novel therapeutic target for the treatment of a wide range of psychiatric disorders that feature social deficits as either core or secondary symptoms. Despite highly promising preclinical results, recent clinical trials examining the efficacy of intranasal oxytocin for treating a wide range of psychiatric disorders, including social anxiety disorder, have produced underwhelming results. These underwhelming results may be due to the peptides poor pharmacokinetic properties including very limited penetration of the blood-brain barrier and half-life of only minutes. Hence, there is great potential for novel pharmacological therapeutics targeting the oxytocin system to produce more robust therapeutic effects by overcoming the pharmacokinetic challenges presented by oxytocin itself. As such, my work is focused on the phenotypic screening of a small molecule oxytocin circuit stimulator developed by Dr. Michael Bowen and colleagues in the mouse social fear conditioning paradigm. The social fear conditioning paradigm models the social avoidance aspects of social anxiety disorder and has been proposed as a predictive preclinical screen for compounds targeting the treatment of social anxiety disorder.

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