12 December 2007

New treatment for depression?

A new study has found a novel treatment strategy for major depression which may have broader treatment success and this could have an immense impact on public health.

A new study has found a novel treatment strategy for major depression which may have broader treatment success or lead to a more rapid onset of action, and this could have an immense impact on public health.

The study, published in the December issue of Biological Psychiatry, reports findings which support the evaluation of a potential new antidepressant agent.

According to the lead author on this study, Kamilla Miskowiak, "Although depression is often related to problems in the chemistry of the brain, recent evidence also suggests that there may be structural problems with nerve cells not being regenerated as fast as normal, or suffering from toxic effects of stress and stress hormones."

This led the researchers to evaluate the effects of erythropoietin (Epo), a hormone naturally produced by the kidneys that stimulates the formation of red blood cells and is known as a treatment for anaemia.

How the study was done
The authors explain that new evidence shows that Epo also 'has neuro-protective and neurotrophic effects in animal models and can affect cognitive and associated neural responses in humans,' which suggests that it may be a candidate in the treatment of depression.

In this study, Miskowiak and colleagues evaluated the effects of Epo on the neural and cognitive processing of emotional information in healthy volunteers using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

They found that Epo regulated the emotional responses of those volunteers who received it, similar to the effects of current antidepressants.

What the study showed
"This finding provides support to the idea that Epo affects neural function and may be a candidate agent for future treatment strategies for depression, " she said.

John H. Krystal, MD, Editor of Biological Psychiatry and affiliated with both Yale University School of Medicine and the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, confirmed its potential.

"Epo appears to have neurotrophic effects in the brain in animals and the current data suggests that it may modulate human brain activity associated with the processing of emotion. Together, there may now be sufficient evidence to justify evaluating the antidepressant effects of Epo and related compounds in humans," he said. – (EurekAlert)

Read more:
The links between anxiety and depression


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Michael Simpson has been a senior psychiatric academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries, having worked at London University in the UK; McMaster University in Canada; Temple University in Philadelphia, USA.; and the University of Natal in South Africa.

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