Prof. Dr. Michael Maes is a clinician and translational scientist whose works ranges from epidemiological and clinical research projects, case-control studies and pharmacological trials, to rodent and molecular experiments.
Dr. Maes is since 2001 a highly cited author (ISI, Thomson Reuters) with a H-index >107 and > 43.000 citations and is listed in the Webometrics Ranking of World Universities as one of the Top Scientists (2016). He is ranked worldwide #2 in CFS, #10 in stress, physiological and #10 in oxidative stress (Bibliometric Website Expertscape). He published more than 700 scientific papers in peer-reviewed international journals and gave more than 300 invited lectures at different international symposia. His work has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including Molecular Psychiatry, Molecular Neurobiology, Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, Psychiatry Research, Biological Psychiatry, Neuropsychobiology, BMC Medicine, Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, Journal of Affective Disorders.
The work of Dr. Maes covers the supra-multi-disciplinary field of “pathway and drug discovery processes” in neuro-psychiatric disorders. Dr. Maes's research is focused on biomarkers and pathways of psychiatric disorders, such as major depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and (neuro-)immune disorders, including Parkinson’s disorder, multiple sclerosis, lupus erythematosus, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Maes discovered that “clinical depression” is a systemic illness characterized by peripheral a) increases in pro-inflammatory cytokine levels, an acute phase response; b) cell-mediated immune (CMI) activation; c) lowered omega-3 PUFA levels; d) lowered plasma tryptophan, which determines brain serotonin contents and is an inflammatory sequel; and e) IFNα-induced depression is associated with increased synthesis of neurotoxic tryptophan catabolites.
Other ground-breaking discoveries were that psychological stressors may cause immune activation, inflammation and Th1 responses in humans; gut-derived inflammation is a new pathway in depression and ME/CFS; chronic apical periodontitis-derived oxidative stress plays a role in depression; increased oxidative and nitrosative stress at the end of pregnancy is associated with the onset of perinatal depression; deficit schizophrenia is an immune disorder with a specific defect in natural autoimmune responses; and stress-related disorders are associated with nitrosative stress and autoimmunity secondary to oxidative and nitrosative stress. The work of Dr. Maes not only showed the role of vulnerability or risk factors (e.g. lower dipeptidyl peptidase IV and prolyl endopeptidase and lowered anti-cytokines, e.g. CC16), but also gene pathways that increase the risk to develop depression following stressors.
In 1995, Maes et al. also launched the monocyte-T lymphocyte theory of schizophrenia considering that activated immuno-inflammatory pathways may account for the higher neurodevelopmental pathology linked with gestational infections through the detrimental effects of activated microglia, oxidative and nitrosative stress, cytokine-induced activation of the tryptophan catabolite pathway and consequent modulation of the NMDAR.
Dr. Maes also defined biomarkers of staging of depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, e.g. single nucleotide polymorphisms in inflammatory and O&NS genes and lowered antioxidant and increased cytokine levels predicting treatment non response or recurrence.
His translational work showed that antidepressants and mood stabilizers, such as lithium, have negative immunoregulatory effects. The clinical and translational work of Dr. Maes contributed to the delineation of new drug targets in depression thereby opening the way to novel treatments of psychiatric disorders, such as ω3-PUFAs, antioxidants, curcumin, anti-inflammatory compounds, minocycline, etc.
Dr. Maes focused on phenomenological and epidemiological aspects of mood disorders (e.g. depression, panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder) and the supra-multidisciplinary field of “pathway and drug discovery processes” in depression, mania, anxiety disorders, stress and schizophrenia, and more particularly the immune-inflammatory pathways and its connections and sequels. Dr. Maes is a clinician and translational scientist whose works ranges from epidemiological and clinical research projects, case-control studies and pharmacological trials, to rodent and molecular experiments