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UNE’s Karen Houseknecht to study circadian regulation of stress and immune systems

Karen Houseknecht

March 27, 2017

Karen Houseknecht, Ph.D., University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine professor of Pharmacology, was recently awarded a one-year Innovation grant from the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratories (MDIBL) Innovation Awards Program. The Innovation awards program is part of the Kathryn w. Davis COBRE Center for Regenerative Biology and Medicine at MDIBL and is designed to stimulate and support transformative biomedical and biological research, and to launch innovative educational programs at MDIBL.  

Houseknecht and co-investigator James A. Coffman, Ph.D., associate professor at MDIBL, will collaborate to learn more about how circadian rhythms, driven by light and dark cycles, affect the development of the immune system. Houseknecht’s expertise in endocrinology and pharmacology complements Coffman’s research focus on development and regulation of the immune system. Houseknecht and Coffman will use the zebrafish as an experimental model to evaluate the effects of circadian disruption during early development on immune function during adulthood.

Houseknecht has also been chosen as a 2017 Visiting Scientist Fellow at MDIBL. She will be spending her six-month mini-sabbatical not only collaborating on the Innovation Award project, but also spending time at MDIBL gaining experience working with the zebrafish model and building new research and teaching collaborations. Houseknecht’s Visiting Scientist Fellowship will be supported in part by the David Evans Visiting Faculty Fellowship Fund and the Bodil Schmidt-Nielsen Fund.

Houseknecht's career, which has spanned academic and corporate research environments, has focused on her unwavering passion around the discovery and development of novel therapeutics for the treatment of mood disorders and metabolic disorders such as diabetes and obesity. In addition to this most recent pilot project, Houseknecht is engaged in NIH-funded research focused on identifying mechanisms underlying endocrine and metabolic side effects of antipsychotic medications, and the implications of off-label prescribing of these medications to vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly. She is also investigator on a multi-investigator, NIH-funded project to develop new and safer opioid medications, leading efforts in the area of drug metabolism. 

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