‘Gene fix’ to treat depression

Friday, October 22, 2010

LONDON - A shot of genes could help treat severe depression, according to scientists.

Anti-depressants don’t work for everyone and can cause side-effects from suicide and suicidal thoughts to self-harm, anxiety, insomnia, nausea, headaches and vomiting.

Researchers believe injecting the brain could be a realistic solution for severe and chronic depression not amenable to drugs, reports the Daily Mail.

US researchers linked lack of a brain protein called p11 to depression.

Mice unable to make the protein, which helps regulate brain chemicals, became depressed, according to the journal Science Translational Medicine.

But giving them gene injections - that make the protein - normalised their mood.

The researchers from the Weill-Cornell Medical Centre and Rockefeller University in New York, US, checked whether the protein also plays a role in the human form of the disease.

Autopsies of a brain region, key to experiencing pleasure, found lower levels of p11 in tissue taken from people who had died while severely depressed than in others.

Nobel prize winner Michael Kaplitt said: “Together, these studies provide strong evidence that maintaining adequate levels of this particular protein - p11 - in this pleasure-reward area of the brain may be central to preventing or treating depression.”

There are, however, many potential problems with using jabs of DNA to fix health problems.

They need to be confident that the genes and proteins they make don’t cause harmful side-effects to other tissues.

Filed under: Science and Technology

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