redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
Levels of a tiny molecule known as miR-1202 are lower in the brains of people suffering from depression, suggesting that it could serve as a marker for depression and help detect which patients are most likely to respond to antidepressant treatment, experts from McGill University and the Douglas Institute claim in a new study.
Their research, which has been published by the journal Nature Medicine, shows that miR-1202 could ultimately improve treatment options from those suffering from the psychological condition. The molecule is only found in humans and other primates, lead author Dr. Gustavo Turecki and his colleagues explained.
Depression is a common disorder, and while there are many types of drugs that can be used to treat it, it can be difficult to determine which medication is right for which patient. A lot of trial and error is involved, the study authors noted, but this new research could help eliminate some of that guesswork and make treatment more efficient.
“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,” Dr. Turecki, a psychiatrist at the Douglas Institute and a professor at the McGill University Department of Psychiatry, said in a statement Sunday.
“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,” he added. Their discovery could provide “a potential target for the development of new and more effective antidepressant treatments.”
Dr. Turecki and his colleagues conducted a series of experiments which demonstrated that antidepressants altered the levels of miR-1202. In clinical trials, they treated depressed patients that had lower levels of the microRNA compared to their non-depressed counterparts with the commonly prescribed treatment citalopram. The researchers found that miR-1202 increased during the treatment process, and that individuals no longer felt depressed.
While antidepressant drugs, which are the most prescribed medications in North America, “are clearly effective,” Dr. Turecki explained that “there is variability in how individuals respond to antidepressant treatment.” During their clinical trial, he and his colleagues “found that miR-1202 is different in individuals with depression and particularly, among those patients who eventually will respond to antidepressant treatment,” he added.
In related research published earlier this year, University of Cambridge professor Joe Herbert detailed how a saliva-based test could determine if teenage boys experiencing minor bouts of depression would be more likely to experience major depression later in life.
In that study, Herbert and his colleagues found that teenage boys with mild depression symptoms and elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol were up to 14 times more likely to experience clinical depression as they grew older compared to those possessing low or normal cortisol levels. The work was deemed noteworthy because it offered a method of physically measuring a condition that has its roots within the brain.