(RxWiki News) Neuroscientists from Canada have developed a protein peptide that may serve as a new treatment for depression with low side effects.
Depression, one of the world's leading causes of disability, is usually treated with medications that block serotonin or norepinephrine transporters. These medications don't work for all patients and often cause a plethora of side effects.
However, Dr. Fang Liu and her team of researchers identified a different therapeutic target for the development of new anti-depressants. Using a brain that had been autopsied, they found that the brains of people diagnosed with major depression had highly elevated coupling between two dopamine receptors. Through analysis of the D1 and D2 receptor complex (a dopamine signaling mechanism) Dr. Liu's team was able to find the points where the two receptors bind together. Once armed with this knowledge, they were able to develop a protein peptide that could disrupt the binding of the two receptors.
In order to compare the new discovery with other anti-depressant medications, the scientists tested it in animal models. According to Dr. Liu, "After we administered the peptide, we saw a marked improvement in depression-related behaviors. The improvement seen in the peptide group was equivalent to the improvement on traditional anti-depressant medication." Although the peptide seems to have an equal success rate as pre-existing anti-depressants, the hope is that it will lead to new options for treatment while reducing side effects.