Congratulations to Yashika on receiving the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health-Womenmind Postdoctoral Fellowship. Earning this award, she added one more feather to her cap!

Yashika’s project focuses on the role of astrocytes in depression. Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a global mental health concern affecting preferentially women compared to men (2:1 ratio). The limited efficacy of current antidepressants compels to better understand MDD neurobiology. Growing evidence indicates that the genes involved in MDD are sex-specific with little overlap in the gene expression profiles of neurons in MDD men and women. Since stress is a precipitating factor for MDD, chronic stress exposure is used in research to mimic aspects of this illness in rodents including the greater susceptibility to stress in females and the sex differences in gene expression profiles. Clinical and preclinical studies demonstrate that astroglia, a key cell type involved in regulating and nurturing neurons, display dramatic dysfunctions in MDD which were causally linked to symptom expression. However, it remains unknown if chronic stress- and MDD- induced astroglial vulnerabilities are sex-specific or share common molecular origins, and whether chronic stress-induced astroglial impairment is directly linked to neuronal/synaptic dysfunctions or can be prevented in a sex-dependent manner.

In this project, Yashika proposes to uncover the biological origin of astroglial vulnerability associated with MDD and chronic stress in humans and rodents of both sexes and identify the sex-specific genes and mechanisms involved in astroglial dysfunction.

This work will provide critical insight into the sex differences associated with MDD and chronic stress astroglial pathology while setting the stage for future work targeting astroglia for antidepressant development.