Stress And The Brain: Manipulating Molecule Helps Lower Symptoms Of Depression

First Posted: Jul 22, 2015 07:57 PM EDT

New findings published in the journal Nature Neuroscience reveal that boosting certain molecular levels in the brain could help lower symptoms of depression.

"This is the first step in the development of a treatment for patients with major depressive disorder using this new strategy," said senior author Dr. James Bibb, Professor of Psychiatry, and Neurology and Neurotherapeutics at UT Southwestern, in a news release.

Researchers found that by elevating levels of the molecule cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) in brain cells, there was a positive impact on stress-induced behaviors in mice.

While previous studies have shown that those suffering from major depressive disorder have depressed levels of the molecule, antidepressants can increase these levels, but are not always so successful. For instance, 20 to 40 percent of depression patients are not even helped by such treatments.

For this study, researchers discovered that cAMP levels increased in brain cells when the enzyme PDE4 was disrupted. They blocked the regulatory protein kinase Cdk5, disrupting the function of PDE4 and increasing cAMP levels in mice.

From there, the researchers came up with a drug-like peptide that disrupted the enzyme and improved the responses of mice during stress tests.

"These exciting findings could help us develop very novel treatments to reduce stress response and prevent or treat depression effectively in the future," concluded Dr. Madhukar Trivedi, Director of the Center for Depression Research and Clinical Care, Chief of the Division of Mood Disorders, Professor of Psychiatry, and holder of the Betty Jo Hay Distinguished Chair in Mental Health.

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