Conventional antidepressants sometimes take weeks to be effective in people with depression, putting the most seriously ill at risk for suicide. But a new discovery has pinpointed the biochemistry that may hold the key to why it takes so long — a finding that could open the door to faster-acting medicines.
In studies of mice, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine have identified key proteins — known as CREM and CREB — tied to depression that appear to be critical to the action of antidepressants. In findings published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers suggested the discovery paves the way to improvements in drug treatment for depression.
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"This is the first demonstration of CREM within the brain playing a role in behavior, and specifically in behavioral outcomes, following antidepressant treatment," said Julie Blendy, a professor of pharmacology, who helped lead the research to identify what can be done to shorten the time it takes for antidepressants to kick in. "Our goal is to find ways for antidepressants to work faster."
Antidepressants work by causing an immediate flood of neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine, and in some cases dopamine, into the brain. But it can take three to four weeks for patients to feel changes in their mental state. But the new study found that mice in which CREB is deleted or in mice in which CREM is increased, effects are evident in just one to two days.
"Our results suggest that activation of CREM may provide a means to accelerate the therapeutic efficacy of current antidepressant treatment," said Blendy.
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