Monday, June 9, 2014

The Trial and Error Days of Antidepressant Drug Treatment May Be Over

 

Treating depression is kind of a mess, to put it mildly. Setting aside psychotherapy and alt-medicines, there is a staggeringly wide field of available pharmaceuticals and pharmaceutical classes, all of which are mostly just subject to trial and error within specific individuals. That is, it's difficult to say which drug is going to be better for particular cases and it's not uncommon for patients to move from drug to drug until one finally seems to hit. It's an imprecise way to go about treating disease and for patients it's also intensely frustrating and ultimately a barrier to sticking with treatment.

What could make all of the difference is if there were some reasonably accurate, physiological way of predicting the success of antidepressant drugs before administering them. This is one possible utility of a newly-discovered molecule, miR-1202, described in today's issue of Nature Medicine, courtesy of a research team based at Montreal's McGill University. miR-1202 appears to fluctuate downwards in patients suffering from depression and, as patients report mood improvements resulting from at least one common drug therapy, heads back upward toward normal levels.

miR-1202 is what's known as microRNA. It's job is to regulate the biochemical material produced as the result of the expression of some gene. Sometimes that expression needs some fine tuning to keep things in balance. Overactivity in oncogenes, for example, is a cause of cancer. Gene regulation by microRNA is how the body's microstructures adapt to new environments and remain versatile. In the case of depression, miR-1202 helps regulate the receptors for the neurotransmitter glutamate. Interestingly, miR-1202 is only found in humans and primates.

"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," explains the study's lead author, McGill's Dr. Gustavo Turecki, in a press release. 

"Although antidepressants are clearly effective, there is variability in how individuals respond to antidepressant treatment," says Turecki. "We found that miR-1202 is different in individuals with depression and particularly, among those patients who eventually will respond to antidepressant treatment."

For the rest of the story: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/a-tiny-molecule-predicts-the-success-of-antidepressant-drugs

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