Chronic depression is one of the most common forms of mental illness, and medical scientists have been hard at work searching for a cure.
In a study from Nanjing Medical University, scientists developed a new antidepressant drug that elicits an antidepressant effect in just two hours.
Most drugs used to treat depression are serotonin reuptake inhibitors that reduce depression by targeting serotonin transporters—they are generically known as SERT drugs.
They work by upping the levels of serotonin in the brain. Unfortunately, such drugs can take many weeks to have an impact, and they can also have serious side effects, such as increasing the risk of suicide.
In this study, the researchers took a new approach—disassociating SERT and an enzyme called neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNos.)
They developed a compound called ZZL-7. When injected into mice, it modified the firing of neurons that produce serotonin in the dorsal raphe nucleus, and in so doing, disrupted interactions between serotonin transporters and nNos.
That led to increased amounts of serotonin in the medial prefrontal cortex, which would likely be felt in humans as a reduction in symptoms of depression.
The team also note that because the brain begins increasing the amount of serotonin in the medial prefrontal cortex almost right away, the effects of the compound should be felt within a couple of hours.
The researchers also suggest that disassociating SERT and nNos as a means of combating depression should also avoid the side effects so common in other therapies.
For more information about mental health, please see recent studies about daily habit that is powerful medicine for depression, and results showing sitting during COVID-19 pandemic linked to depression.
The study was conducted by Nan Sun et al and published in the journal Science.
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