Depression: Gene-activating drug reverses symptoms in mice

    New research shows that activating a gene that, in turn, boosts the activity of certain neurons involved in depression can reverse symptoms of the condition in male mice.

    Is "the leading cause of disability worldwide," as more than 300 million people across the globe are living with the condition.

    In the United States, major depressive disorder affects 6.7 percent of the population, including over 16 million adults.

    Recently, more and more studies have been shedding light on the genetic and neurological mechanisms at play behind depression.

    For instance, a pioneering study has uncovered 44 genetic locations that the researchers showed to have a link to a higher risk of the condition. Other studies have found that brain areas scientists link with reward and memory processing are different in those living with depression.

    Zooming in on a single gene, a genome-wide association study appearing in 2015 found that a variant of a protein-encoding gene known as Sirtuin1 (SIRT1) correlates with a much higher risk of depression.

    Now, new research finds that direct activation of this gene in the prefrontal cortex — a brain area we associate with complex thinking and planning of socially-appropriate responses — can reverse symptoms of depression in male mice.

    Molecular behavioral neuroscientist and pharmacologist Xin-Yun Lu, Ph.D., is the corresponding author of the latest study. The researcher is also a professor in the Department of Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.

    Prof. Lu and her colleagues published their research in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

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