redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
Inflammation of the brain could hold the key to understanding the underlying mechanisms responsible for the link between depression and heart disease, according to new research conducted at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Dr. Susan K. Wood, a research associate at the Pennsylvania-based medical center, investigated brain-related biomarkers for depression-heart disease comorbidity, as each condition increased the risk that an individual will develop the other ailment. She presented her findings Sunday at the Experimental Biology 2013 conference in Boston, Massachusetts.
Wood used a rodent model of social stress similar in nature to the bullying faced by humans. She previously established that the behavior in question produces depressive-like behaviors and dysfunctional cardiovascular changes in a susceptible subset of rodents.
Her previous work led to the discovery that corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) — a hormone and neurotransmitter associated with stress response — plays an essential role in rendering an individual vulnerable to stress-related depression and heart disease.
Wood´s latest research is the first study to identify gene and protein expression differences in the brains of rodents is based on vulnerability or resiliency to stress-induced depressive-style behaviors and cardiovascular dysfunction.
She compared the expression of 88 genes involved in transmitting brain signals between both socially stressed and non-stressed rats. Wood and her colleagues located more than 35 genes in stressed rats which had altered expressions compared to their more relaxed counterparts.
Several of the identified genes were related to inflammation, the researchers explained. Furthermore, follow-up research measuring protein levels discovered that Interleukin-1β and Monocyte chemotactic protein-1 — inflammatory markers associated with both depression and heart disease — were suppressed in the brains of the resilient rats, and the Interleukin-1β levels were elevated in the socially stressed group.
“The identification of factors in the brain that distinguish susceptibility and resiliency to depression and heart disease comorbidity would be a major advance in predicting, preventing and treating these disorders,” the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), a non-profit biological and medical research organization, said in a statement.