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Wellcome DPhil Training Fellowship researcher is awarded BMA grant given to assist research into schizophrenia.

Adam al dawani 1

Adam Al-Diwani is a psychiatrist in training taking time out of his clinical programme to complete a 3 year Wellcome DPhil Training Fellowship, supported by the Oxford Biomedical Research Centre. He is supervised by Belinda Lennox in Psychiatry and Sarosh Irani in NDCN in collaboration with Charlie Stagg and her team in OHBA/FMRIB. 

Adam's research focuses on a group of conditions called autoimmune encephalitis, which are caused by antibodies that target crucial synaptic signalling molecules including NMDA, AMPA, and GABA receptors. 

We’re very pleased to have gained support from the BMA foundation for this specific project. Interaction between immunity and the brain is a rapidly growing area with the potential for novel and more targeted therapies for patients. We see this award as vindication of this translational science and look forward to working with patients participating in the research.
- Adam Al Diwani

Our immune system normally makes antibodies to remove infection - but sometimes these antibodies confuse the body for infection. If this is the brain, they can cause “encephalitis”, causing seizures and memory loss as well as psychosis. Medications which lower antibodies usually help these patients improve.

Work led by Belinda Lennox here in Oxford has shown that up to 10% of people with psychosis have similar antibodies in their blood but do not clearly have encephalitis. The most common target is the NMDA receptor, which allows messages to be transmitted between brain cells and is crucial to normal thought processes.

Adam Al-Diwani is collaborating with Sarosh Irani's Autoimmune Neurology group in NDCN to study the immune cells that make these antibodies. Alongside routinely obtained blood and cerebrospinal samples, our radiology colleagues will use the safe and well-tolerated approach of ultrasound-guided fine needle aspiration to sample neck lymph nodes. This award will be very helpful to fund laboratory materials, equipment and patient travel. We hope to better understand the immune system in this group of patients, which may help develop targeted therapies in the future.