Scientists find secret to better drugs in battle to beat depression
SCIENTISTS have worked out the way in which stress hormones reduce the number of new brain cells – a process linked to depression – and say their work should help researchers develop more effective anti-depressants.
The scientists identified a protein largely responsible for the long-term detrimental effect of stress on cells.
They also successfully used an experimental drug compound to block this effect, pointing to a possible way of developing new anti-depressants, the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences said.
A team under Carmine Pariante of King's College London's Institute of Psychiatry, who led the research, studied human hippocampal stem cells – a source of new cells in the human brain. They gave the cells cortisol to measure the effect on neurogenesis and found that a protein called SGK1 was important in mediating the effects. By measuring the effect of cortisol over time, they found that increased levels of SGK1 prolong the damaging impact of stress hormones on neurogenesis.
Next, the researchers used an experimental drug compound known to inhibit SGK1 and found it blocked the negative effects of stress hormones, leading to an increase in new brain cells.
The team confirmed the results by studying levels of SGK1 in animals and then in blood samples from people with depression.