Small Molecule May Help Indicate Which Depression Patients Will Respond to Antidepressants

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Researchers at McGill University and the Douglas Institute reported they have found a potential biomarker for depression in a small molecule only found in humans and primates. According to their research, the levels of the protein are lower in the brain of depressed individuals, which may allow for improved diagnosis and treatment for those who suffer from one of the most common mental health issues in modern day.

There are already several viable medications intended to treat depression, however finding the right medication is currently a game of trial and error. If the report published in the journal Nature Medicine is confirmed, analyzing the levels of the tiny molecule miR-1202 may allow physicians to better evaluate which patients are most likely to respond to antidepressant treatment.

“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,” said Dr. Gustavo Turecki, psychiatrist at the Douglas and professor in the Faculty of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry at McGill. “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”.

The team ran several experiments which showed that antidepressants effectively change the levels of this microRNA. “In our clinical trials with living depressed individuals treated with citalopram, a commonly prescribed antidepressant, we found lower levels in depressed individuals compared to the non-depressed individuals before treatment,” said Turecki. “Clearly, microRNA miR-1202 increased as the treatment worked and individuals no longer felt depressed.”

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