Research updates

The research team at St Patrick’s Mental Health Services is currently undertaking a study looking at the effects of eating disorders on ageing. Eating disorders are associated with premature ageing and earlier onset of age-related diseases, including osteoporosis. These adverse outcomes may be mediated by the effects of prolonged dietary restriction on telomere length and mitochondrial DNA.  Telomeres are microscopic caps that protect the ends of your chromosomes – structures that contain your DNA. As we age, these telomere caps get shorter and shorter with each cell division. However, this shortening process can be exacerbated by biological and psychological stress, accelerating the ageing process. Mitochondria are structures within cells that generate energy for use by the body and possess their own small amount of DNA. Mitochondrial dysfunction is proposed to play a role in various psychiatric conditions and may be altered in psychiatric illnesses such as eating disorders. The main purpose of the study is to compare telomere length and mitochondrial DNA between patients with eating disorders and a matched group of healthy controls and explore the effect of duration and severity of illness on telomere length and mitochondrial DNA. Recruitment for this study Impact of Eating Disorders and Biological Ageing commenced in August and has had an overwhelmingly positive response thus far. It is expected that recruitment will continue for approximately 9 months.


Recruitment of patients for the KARMA-Dep study at St Patrick’s Mental Health Services completed in July 2018. Results of this study will be available once all participants have completed follow up assessments later this year. This study investigates ketamine as an additional treatment to standard inpatient care for people suffering from acute depression. Due to the success of this trial and two previous trials involving ketamine; the KEEP-WELL trial and KINDRED trial, it is likely that a further study involving ketamine as an adjunct treatment for acute depression for patients receiving electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) will be developed by the research team. ECT is a medically safe procedure for the treatment of depression. A combination of ECT and ketamine may accelerate the time to recovery in patients suffering from acute depression. Further information regarding this study will be available later this year.


Recruitment for AMBER-DEP is ongoing. This study aims to investigate the effects of depression on autobiographical memory. In the AMBER-Dep study, three groups of participants are compared on clinical measures of mood and memory over the course of four months: healthy participants (a measure of the effect of time on memory), depressed participants not receiving ECT (a measure of the effect of low mood on memory) and depressed participants receiving ECT (a measure of the effect of ECT on memory). Service users have been very enthusiastic to date about becoming involved in the study. The results of this study will improve our understanding of memory, depression and ECT and will help advances in the treatment for severe depression.

More information about the above studies can be found on the TCD website.