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Personal profile

Research interests

Depression is estimated to affect 1 in 6 UK adults at any one time. The likelihood of developing depression is influenced by genetic factors and by lifetime experience and environmental factors. However, the molecular basis of these diseases is not well understood.

Current first-line treatments for depression include the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs, e.g. Prozac). While these drugs are effective in up to 50% of the population this means that there is a huge unmet medical need to develop more effective treatments. In addition, there is a delay in when the SSRIs start to take effect and there are significant side effects.

In my lab we are using a combination of behavioural, electrophysiological and molecular techniques to learn more about the molecular mechanisms involved in the response to stress and the development of depression. This knowledge will help us develop new antidepressant drugs. Current research focuses on two inter-related aspects of depression.

Kappa opioid receptors

Dynorphin is a peptide in the brain that is released in response to stress. Dynorphin acts at kappa opioid receptors (KOR). KOR expression is high in brain regions involved in the control of mood and the response to stress. Activating these receptors produces low mood in humans and aversive responses in rodents. Blocking KOR with antagonists has potential as an antidepressant treatment. In collaboration with Prof Husband's group, we are examining the role of KOR in the response to stress and developing novel KOR ligands with antidepressant potential. We are also investigating the influence of age and sex on the response to stress and KOR activation.


Neuroinflammation and depression

Following a bacterial or viral infection, people experience changes in mood, appetite and interest in their environment that resemble depression. These symptoms are mediated by chemicals called cytokines that trigger inflammation as part of the body's normal response to infection.

In animal studies, exposure to an inflammatory challenge (e.g. an infection) causes inflammation in both the body and the brain. In the brain, microglial cells release cytokines. This has led to the idea that cytokines can trigger major depression.

We are investigating the role of the inflammasome - a protein complex in microglia that is required for cytokine activation - in the brain in response to inflammatory challenge using a combination of biochemical measures, in vitro cultured cells and animal studies.


Willing to supervise PhD



External positions

Secretary for Non-clinical External Affairs, British Association for Psychopharmacology


Member of Policy & Public Engagement Committee, British Pharmacological Society


Member of Animal Welfare and In Vivo Pharmacology Committee, British Pharmacological Society


Fingerprint Dive into the research topics where Sarah Bailey is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • 6 Similar Profiles
kappa Opioid Receptor Medicine & Life Sciences
Depression Medicine & Life Sciences
Isotretinoin Medicine & Life Sciences
Antidepressive Agents Medicine & Life Sciences
Buprenorphine Medicine & Life Sciences
Narcotic Antagonists Medicine & Life Sciences
Naltrexone Medicine & Life Sciences
Retinoids Medicine & Life Sciences

Network Recent external collaboration on country level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots.

Projects 2007 2019

The Art of Brian

Bailey, S.

1/01/15 → …

Project: Research-related funding

The Art of the Brain

Bailey, S.


Project: Research-related funding

Kappa Opioid Receptors in Anxiety

Bailey, S.

The Royal Society


Project: Research council

Research Output 2001 2019

Ketamine increases proliferation of human iPSC-derived neuronal progenitor cells via insulin-like growth factor 2 and independent of the NMDA receptor

Grossert, A., Mehrjardi, N. Z., Bailey, S., Lindsay, M., Hescheler, J., Saric, T. & Teusch, N., 24 Sep 2019, In : Cells. 8, 10, 1139.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
9 Citations (Scopus)
39 Downloads (Pure)

Antidepressant-like effects of BU10119, a novel buprenorphine analogue with mixed κ/μ receptor antagonist properties, in mice

Almatroudi, A. M. I., Ostovar, M., Bailey, C., Husbands, S. & Bailey, S., 1 Jul 2018, In : British Journal of Pharmacology. 175, 14, p. 2869-2880 12 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
kappa Opioid Receptor
Narcotic Antagonists
mu Opioid Receptor
5 Citations (Scopus)
36 Downloads (Pure)

Female psychopharmacology matters! Towards a sex-specific psychopharmacology

Bolea-Alamanac, B., Bailey, S. J., Lovick, T. A., Scheele, D. & Valentino, R., 1 Feb 2018, In : Journal of Psychopharmacology . 32, 2, p. 125-133 9 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
Sex Characteristics
Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone Receptors
kappa Opioid Receptor
Inbred C57BL Mouse
Sex Characteristics


Behavioural profiles and cellular mechanisms of retinoid-induced depression

Author: Trent, S., 1 Sep 2010

Supervisor: Bailey, S. (Supervisor)

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Does the combination of buprenorphine/naltrexone have antidepressant efficacy in animal models?

Author: Almatroudi, A., 11 Jan 2016

Supervisor: Bailey, S. (Supervisor), Bailey, C. (Supervisor) & Husbands, S. (Supervisor)

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Sex differences in the effects of kappa opioid receptors agonists and acute stress on the mouse brain

Author: Ma, Q., 15 Jan 2020

Supervisor: Bailey, C. (Supervisor), Wonnacott, S. (Supervisor) & Bailey, S. (Supervisor)

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


The role of inflammsasome signalling in the pathology of depression

Author: Wickens, R., 1 Mar 2017

Supervisor: Mackenzie, A. (Supervisor) & Bailey, S. (Supervisor)

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD