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Anti-depressant successful on stressed rats

1 February 2010

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Category: Research & medical benefits

white–rat–lab.jpgSymptoms of depression caused by an inflammatory response could be alleviated by a new treatment, a study on rats has shown.

An estimated 15% of people in the UK will go through a period of severe depression during their lifetime, and the condition can affect any age.

Scientists had previously suggested that one form of depression may be caused by an inflammatory response - the body's initial immune response to an infection. Over the last decade, this idea has strengthened as more research into the condition was conducted.

One team decided to investigate a group of molecules called cytokines. A cytokine is an immune system signaling molecule which is also known to block the production of new neurons associated with memory. This can cause brain cell death, particularly in stressed or depressed people. They conducted a study on rats, observing the effects of stress on cytokines and also a medication which can inhibit the signaling molecules.

Researchers found that when rats were stressed, there was a significant decrease in neuron production, indicating brain cell death. Yet when the cytokines were inhibited by the treatment, new neurons were born at the normal rate. The team estimated that stress caused a 50% decrease in brain cell production.

Further investigation will continue into the effects of this treatment. However scientists are hopeful that this research will lead to the development of more medications that will specifically target cytokines. They believe it will provide another option for those patients who do not respond to conventional treatment methods.