The researchers had explained that TREK-1 is a gene that might affect transmission of serotonin in the brain. They explained that serotonin is known to play an important role in mood, sleep and sexuality. The researchers had conducted their research by breeding mice without the gene TREK-1, and were able to create a depression-resistant strain.
"Depression is a devastating illness, which affects around 10% of people at some
point in their life," says Dr. Guy Debonnel an MUHC psychiatrist, professor in the
Department of Psychiatry at McGill University, and principal author of the new
research. "Current medications for clinical depression are ineffective for a third of
patients, which is why the development of alternate treatments is so important."
Mice without the TREK-1 gene ('knock-out' mice) were created and bred in
collaboration with Dr. Michel Lazdunski, co-author of the research, in his laboratory at the University of Nice, France. "These 'knock-out' mice were then tested using separate behavioural, electrophysiological and biochemical measures known to gauge 'depression' in animals," says Dr. Debonnel. "The results really surprised us; our 'knock-out' mice acted as if they had been treated with antidepressants for at least three weeks."
This research represents the first time depression has been eliminated through
genetic alteration of an organism. "The discovery of a link between TREK-1 and
depression could ultimately lead to the development of a new generation of
antidepressant drugs," noted Dr. Debonnel.
According to Health Canada and Statistics Canada, approximately 8% of Canadians will suffer from depression at some point in their lifetime. Around 5% of Canadians seek medical advice for depression each year; a figure that has almost doubled in the past decade. Figures in the U.S. are comparable, with approximately 18.8 million American adults (about 9.5% of the population) suffering depression during their life.