DALLAS April 22, 2014 Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center are making breakthroughs that could benefit people suffering from depression.
A team of physician-scientists at UT Southwestern has identified a major mechanism by which ghrelin (a hormone with natural anti-depressant properties) works inside the brain. Simultaneously, the researchers identified a potentially powerful new treatment for depression in the form of a neuroprotective drug known as P7C3.
The study, published online in April's issue of Molecular Psychiatry, is notable because although a number of anti-depressant drugs and other treatments are available, an estimated one in 10 adults in the U.S. still report depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"By investigating the way the so-called 'hunger hormone' ghrelin works to limit the extent of depression following long-term exposure to stress, we discovered what could become a brand new class of anti-depressant drugs," said Dr. Jeffrey Zigman, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and Psychiatry at UT Southwestern, and co-senior author of the study.
Ghrelin, a hormone produced in the stomach and intestines, has several widely known functions, including the ability to stimulate appetite. The latest research builds on a 2008 study led by Dr. Zigman, in which the team discovered that ghrelin exhibited natural anti-depressant effects that manifest when its levels rise as a result of caloric restriction or prolonged psychological stress.
The current findings identify ghrelin's ability to stimulate adult hippocampal neurogenesis, the formation of new neurons, in animal models. In addition, Dr. Zigman and his colleagues also found that the regenerative process i
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UT Southwestern Medical Center