Originally from Nepal, Dr. Rakesh Karmacharya is an assistant professor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a member of the Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit of the MGH Center for Human Genetic Research. He is also a physician-scientist in the Chemical Biology Program at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and the medical director of the Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder Research Clinic at McLean Hospital.
Dr. Karmacharya received an A.B. in Biochemistry from Harvard University, an M.S. in Molecular Biophysics from Yale University and an MD and a PhD in Biophysics from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. His doctoral work focused on the quantum mechanics of proton tunneling in condensed phase. He completed an internship in Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and a residency in psychiatry at MGH and McLean Hospital. He served as the chief resident of the Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder Program at McLean Hospital. After his residency, he undertook postdoctoral studies in chemical biology with Professor Stuart L. Schreiber at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.
Dr. Karmacharya is generating induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) in the laboratory by reprogramming skin cells obtained from patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and matched controls. iPSCs are equivalent to human embryonic stem cells in that they have the capability of developing into any cell in the body.
Dr. Karmacharya’s team differentiates these patient iPSCs along the neuronal lineage to get live neuronal cells in the laboratory that carry the genetic makeup of the patients. They will profile these patient iPSC-derived neurons using high-content imaging as well as gene expression studies in the presence of different small molecule perturbations. Their goal is to identify robust cellular signatures that underlie the disease biology of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. These disease signatures can then be used in high-throughput screens of small molecule libraries to discover compounds that can modulate and normalize the cellular disease signatures, with an eye towards identifying new diagnostic and therapeutic leads for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.