Depression is a common psychiatric disorder and one of the leading causes of disability worldwide.
Antidepressants are the first-line treatment for moderate to severe major depressive episodes.
Despite their effectiveness, only 40% of patients respond to the first antidepressant they try.
In a new study, researchers suggest that a particular protein, GPR56, is involved in the biology of depression and the effect of antidepressants.
They believe that this protein could offer a novel target for new antidepressant drugs.
The research was conducted by a team at the McGill University and elsewhere.
In this study, the team examined changes in the activity of genes in the blood in over 400 patients who were being treated with antidepressants.
The results showed clearly that there were big changes in the levels of GPR56 in patients who responded favorably to antidepressants, but not in non-responders, or patients receiving placebo.
This discovery is particularly interesting, as GPR56 may represent an easy-to-measure biomarker for response to antidepressants.
The researchers confirmed that GPR56, which can be detected through a simple blood test, was linked to biological changes in the central nervous system.
They found that GPR56 was changed in depression and that it was modified, both in the blood and the brain, when antidepressants were used.
These changes were particularly evident in the prefrontal cortex, an important area of the brain for the regulation of emotions and cognition.
The team says GPR56 is an excellent target for the development of new treatments of depression.
They are hopeful that this will provide an opportunity to alleviate the suffering of patients who face this important, and often chronic, mental illness which is also strongly associated with the risk of addiction and an increased risk of suicide.
The leader of the study is Professor Gustavo Turecki of McGill University.
The study is published in Nature Communication.
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