Promising therapeutic target for depression identified

Thursday, 30 May, 2019

Promising therapeutic target for depression identified

Researchers from the University of Malaga (UMA) have identified what they believe to be a new therapeutic target for depression — one of the most widespread disorders that affects society today.

There are different pharmacological treatments for depression; mainly therapies that act on the serotonin system — the so-called SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). However, these antidepressants typically take around two weeks to have an effect and, what’s more, around 30% of patients are resistant to this class of drug.

Now, UMA researchers have discovered that a fragment of the ‘galanin’ neuropeptide — an endogenous molecule of the brain — is involved in anhedonia, which is the loss of the capacity to feel pleasure in daily activities (including meals, social activities and sex) and is thus one of the main symptoms in depressed patients. Writing in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, the researchers described the role of ‘GAL (1-15)’ in the brain reward system of an animal model.

“We have verified through different experiments how animals modify their response to high-reinforcement appetitive stimuli, such as saccharine or sexual attraction, after the administration of the galanin fragment,” said study co-author Carmelo Millón.

The researchers analysed the brain reinforcement system at a molecular level — specifically, the circuit in charge of reinforcing positive behaviour for individuals and species — and reaffirmed that the galanin fragment acts directly on this neurological mechanism, reducing the circuit activity. Millón said describing this fragment is essential to modulating the brain reward circuit, with applications that go beyond treatments for depression — such as possible use in drug-related addictions.

“The understanding of these mechanisms opens the way for endless therapeutic strategies, hence its importance,” Millón said.

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