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Researchers Find A Tiny Molecule That May Help Battle Depression

Update Date: Jun 09, 2014 09:31 AM EDT

Researchers have discovered a small molecule whose level is lower only in brains of depressed individuals, according to a new study. Researchers said, the discovery is significant for improving treatment options for those who suffer from depression. 

Depression is thought to be a common cause of disability. Though there are many viable options, finding the exact treatment for individual patients still requires trial and error. In the study, researchers write that they have discovered that the levels of tiny molecule, miR-1202, may provide a marker for depression, helping detect individuals who are likely to respond to antidepressant treatment. 

"Using samples from the Douglas Bell-Canada Brain Bank, we examined brain tissues from individuals who were depressed and compared them with brain tissues from psychiatrically healthy individuals," said Dr. Gustavo Turecki, a psychiatrist at the Douglas and professor in the Faculty of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry at McGil, in the press release. "We 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".

Researchers also 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," added Turecki. "Clearly, microRNA miR-1202 increased as the treatment worked and individuals no longer felt depressed."

"Although antidepressants are clearly effective, there is variability in how individuals respond to antidepressant treatment," said Turecki in the press release. "We found that miR-1202 is different in individuals with depression and particularly, among those patients who eventually will respond to antidepressant treatment".

Turecki also added that the discovery will provide "a potential target for the development of new and more effective antidepressant treatments."

The research has been published in the journal Nature Medicine. 

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