Digital Public Defence: Ibrahim Akkouh

Master Ibrahim Akkouh at Institute of Clinical Medicine will be defending the thesis “Transcriptional Modeling of Severe Mental Illnesses” for the degree of PhD (Philosophiae Doctor).

The University of Oslo is closed and the public defence will be held as a video conference over Zoom.

The defence will follow regular procedure as far as possible, hence it will be open to the public and the audience can ask ex auditorio questions when invited to do so.

Click here to participate in the public defence

Download Zoom here

Digital Trial Lecture – time and place

See Digital Trial Lecture.

Adjudication committee

  • First opponent:  Professor Jesper Ekelund, University hospital of the greater Turku region, Finland
  • Second opponent: Professor Ola Myklebost, Haukeland University Hospital
  • Third member and chair of the evaluation committee: Professor Emeritus Borghild Barth-Heyerdahl Roald, University of Oslo

Chair of the Defence

Professor II Hanne Flinstad Harbo, University of Oslo

Principal Supervisor

Professor Srdjan Djurovic, Oslo University Hospital


Schizophrenia (SCZ) and bipolar disorder (BD) are severe mental illnesses characterized by a heterogenous clinical presentation and a complex underlying pathophysiology which is not fully understood. Genetic studies have identified many risk variants, the majority of which are located within non-coding regions of the genome, suggesting primarily a role in gene expression regulation.

In this thesis, microarrays and RNA sequencing were used for transcriptome profiling in various experimental models. The aim was to explore the transcriptional underpinnings of three clinical aspects of SCZ and BD: verbal memory, lithium treatment, and inflammatory modulation.

Memory performance was inversely associated with peripheral TCN1 expression in both SCZ and BD. TCN1 is involved in vitamin B12 transportation and cellular uptake, and the finding may thus have important implications for the diagnosis and treatment of vitamin B12-related conditions.

Lithium treatment in rodent brains was associated with the differential expression of GRIN2A, which encodes a subunit of glutamate-mediated NMDA receptors, the most important excitatory receptors in the brain. This finding lends support to the glutamatergic hypothesis of BD.

Inflammatory modulation was associated with a reduced expression of CCL20 in astrocytes derived from SCZ patients. Astrocytes secrete the chemokine CCL20 to attract regulatory T cells to the site of inflammation in order to terminate the immune response, suggesting that a dysfunctional astrocyte-mediated recruitment of T cells may be involved in the over-active immune state seen in SCZ patients.

In summary, we identify specific transcriptional mechanisms that may underlie the clinical aspects under study. Some of these findings have potential clinical relevance or may inform the development of novel therapeutic agents. These findings also further confirm that transcriptional mechanisms play a central role in the pathophysiology of SCZ and BD.

Additional information

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Published Apr. 23, 2020 2:03 PM - Last modified May 7, 2020 10:51 AM