US researchers claim that a brain protein involved in fear behavior and anxiety may represent a new target for depression therapies.
The study, by researchers at the University of Iowa and the Iowa City Veterans Affairs Medical Center, has appeared in the April 29 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.
Depression can be severely disabling. However, the causes of depression are not well understood.
The UI research team found that disrupting ASIC1a, an ion channel protein found in the brain, produced an antidepressant-like effect in mice. The effect was similar to that produced by currently available antidepressant drugs, but the team also showed that ASIC1a's effect arose through a new and different biological mechanism.
"The mechanism issue is important because if a patient doesn't respond to one drug, the chances of them responding to another drug that works through the same mechanism are low," said study investigator John Wemmie, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and neurosurgery at the UI Carver College of Medicine and a staff physician and researcher at the Iowa City Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
"We need antidepressants with new mechanisms of action to help those people who don't respond to what is currently available," the expert said.
Wemmie added that although there is no immediate therapy available based on the new findings, the results suggest that ASIC1a inhibition represents a new approach to antidepressant therapy. The channel can be blocked pharmacologically.