Tiny molecules may help battle depression

A sample from the Douglas-Bell Canada brain bank.
Photograph: Douglas Institute
Date:31 August 2014 Tags:, , , ,

It’s just a little molecule, for heaven’s sake. But scientists believe it could hold the key to identifying people who suffer from depression and helping them to deal with it.

Levels of a small molecule found only in humans and other primates are lower in the brains of depressed individuals, according to researchers at Canada´s McGill University and the Douglas Institute in the US. Their discovery may hold a key to improving treatment options for those who suffer from depression.

Depression is a common cause of disability, and while viable medications exist to treat it, finding the right medication for individual patients often amounts to trial and error for the physician. In a new study published in the journal Nature Medicine, a team led by Dr Gustavo Turecki discovered that the levels of a tiny molecule, miR-1202, may provide a marker for depression and help detect individuals who are likely to respond to antidepressant treatment.

Says Turecki: “Using samples from the Douglas Bell-Canada Brain Bank, we examined brain tissues from individuals who were depressed and compared them with brain tissues from psychiatrically healthy individuals. We identified this molecule, a microRNA known as miR-1202 – only found in humans and primates – and discovered that it regulates an important receptor of the neurotransmitter glutamate.”

Antidepressant drugs are the most common treatment for depressive episodes and are among the most prescribed medications in North America. The discovery may provide “a potential target for the development of new and more effective antidepressant treatments”, says Turecki.

Source: McGill University