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Study could help the depressed cheer up faster

mumbai Updated: Feb 21, 2010 01:17 IST
Snehal Rebello
Snehal Rebello
Hindustan Times
Neurobiologist Vidita Vaidya

A new study by a research team led by city biologists could help anti-depressants work much faster.

Neurobiologist Vidita Vaidya’s lab at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Colaba and their collaborators conducted a four-year study on rats and mice that could help drug firms shorten the time it takes for anti-depressants to begin changing a patient’s mood to a week — from the current three to six weeks.

“Anti-depressants have been around for 50 years,” Vaidya said. “But they work too slowly, especially for those who are suicidal. And a third of patients do not respond to them.”

Between 15 to 30 per cent of Indians suffer from depression, according to the WHO.

Published last month in Journal of Neuroscience, the study shows how a receptor called alpha2-adrenoceptor slows down the effects of anti-depressants. Receptors are proteins that allow nerve cells to communicate with one another. Using a classical anti-depressant, the study showed that when the receptor was blocked the animals’ depressive behaviour improved more rapidly because the drug could more quickly repair and generate nerve cells in the hippocampus, the part of the brain damaged in depressed patients.

“The receptor is a good target for drug firms looking to make faster-acting anti-depressants,” said Vaidya.