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Animal Study Explores Potential Gene Therapy for Depression
Date:10/20/2010

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 20 (HealthDay News) -- A combination of animal and human research is pointing the way towards a novel gene therapy that could ultimately help in the treatment of major depression, researchers say.

The approach is designed to boost levels of a brain protein known as p11. The study authors cite p11 as a key player in the promotion of feelings of reward, pleasure and satisfaction with positive life experiences.

"Current therapies for depression treat symptoms but not underlying causes, and while that works for many patients, those with advanced depression or depression that does not respond to medication could hopefully benefit from our new approach," study senior investigator Dr. Michael Kaplitt, an associate professor and vice chairman for research of neurological surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College, said in a news release from New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Kaplitt, who is also a neurosurgeon at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell, and his colleagues published their findings in the Oct. 20 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

P11's central role in depression was uncovered in 2006 by Nobel Prize winner Dr. Paul Greengard of Rockefeller University. At that time, p11 was identified as a key player in facilitating the binding of the neurotransmitter serotonin -- long cited as a mood, appetite and sleep regulator -- to nerve cells.

"In the absence of p11, a neuron can produce all the serotonin receptors it needs, but they will not be transported to the cell surface and therefore won't stick out and latch on to the neurotransmitter," explained Kaplitt in the news release.

Following discussions with Greengard, Kaplitt further studied p11's role in mice by disabling the protein's ability to function properly in a specific part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens, which is known to be involved in both addiction and depression.


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