A small molecule that predicts treatment response for depressed patients has been discovered by researchers.
According to researchers at McGill University and the Douglas Institute, levels of a small molecule found only in humans and in other primates are lower in the brains of depressed individuals.
This discovery may hold a key to improving treatment options for those who suffer from depression.
Dr. Gustavo Turecki, a psychiatrist at the Douglas and professor in the Faculty of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry at McGill, together with his team, discovered that the levels of a tiny molecule, miR-1202, may provide a marker for depression and help detect individuals who are likely to respond to antidepressant treatment.
Turecki, who is also Director of the McGill Group for Suicide Studies, said that they identified this molecule, a microRNA known as miR-1202, only found in humans and primates and discovered that it regulates an important receptor of the neurotransmitter glutamate.
The team conducted a number of experiments that showed that antidepressants change the levels of this microRNA. "In our clinical trials with living depressed individuals treated with citalopram, a commonly prescribed antidepressant, we found lower levels in depressed individuals compared to the non-depressed individuals before treatment," says Turecki.
He said "clearly, microRNA miR-1202 increased as the treatment worked and individuals no longer felt depressed."
The new study has been published in the journal Nature Medicine.