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Immune Cells May Increase Depression Risk

Update Date: Dec 12, 2013 02:05 PM EST

Immune cells outside of the brain may increase the risk of depression, according to a new study.

New research suggests that the peripheral immune system may regulate a person's vulnerability to depression.

Lead researcher Georgia Hodes of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai studied mice and found that animals with increased propensity to show depression-like behaviors had elevated levels of circulating interleukin-6, a pro-inflammatory immune chemical.

After carrying out bone marrow transplants, researchers found that mice that received transplants from donors with high levels of interleukin-6 levels in response to stress were more likely to show depressive symptoms compared to those who received transplants from donors with low levels of interleukin-6.

Researchers said the findings suggest that circulating immune chemicals that can act in the brain may play a role in determining a person's vulnerability to depression.

 "These studies represent a new way of thinking about diagnosing and treating depression as an inflammatory illness in the body rather than the brain," Hodes said in a news release.

The findings were presented today at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP) Annual Meeting.

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