mental health

An amino acid may be the key to improving treatment

An amino acid may be the key to improving treatment
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  • In a study that spanned 15 years, researchers at the University of Florida learned how a receptor called GPR158 works in relation to depression.
  • In a study of mice that had GPR158 deleted, they were less likely to suffer from stress-induced depression.
  • Once the researchers found the structure of GPR158, they were able to link it to the amino acid glycine.

Depression affects millions of people and although many medications treat depression, finding the right one can be difficult.

While researching neurotransmitters, scientists at the UF Scripps Herbert Wertheim Institute for Biomedical Innovation and Technology made a discovery that identified the link between an amino acid and depression.

The discovery was based on more than a decade of research to learn more about how brain cell signaling works. Although finding a link to depression was not the goal of the original research, scientists are excited about their findings because they could shape the future of treatments for depression.

The results are published in the journal Science.

According to National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), depression affects approximately 21 million adults in the United States each year. Rates of depression have risen dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to be a problem, with rates also increasing among children under 18.

While some people experience situational depression, which can arise due to circumstances (such as the death of a loved one), others experience depression for longer periods of time, and it can develop into a major depressive disorder.

Some signs and symptoms of depression listed by the NIMH include:

  • feeling sad regularly
  • experience feelings of emptiness
  • have low energy or feel tired
  • have sleep problems
  • have thoughts of self-harm

People with persistent symptoms of depression may need treatment. Doctors can prescribe medications, suggest therapy, or recommend lifestyle changes to relieve symptoms of depression.

Some medications for depression include tricyclic antidepressants (such as imipramine or amitriptyline), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (such as sertraline or escitalopram), and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors ( such as duloxetine or venlafaxine).

Because antidepressants can cause side effects, including thoughts of suicide, people taking them should see their healthcare providers regularly and keep them informed about these thoughts.

The authors did not initially seek to discover a link with depression. Their focus when they started their research 15 years ago was to research how brain cell receptors work.

“Fifteen years ago, we discovered a binding partner for the proteins we were interested in, which led us to this new receptor,” said Professor Kirill Martemyanov, one of the study’s authors. “We’ve been rolling this out this whole time.”

Professor Martemyanov is a professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Florida Health.

In the ensuing period, researchers discovered a receptor called GPR158. They learned from mouse studies that if a mouse had this receptor suppressed, then it would be more resistant to stress-induced depression.

“Genetic deletion of GPR158 in mice results in a prominent antidepressant phenotype and stress resistance, making GPR158 an attractive target for the development of novel antidepressants,” the authors write.

Next, the authors wanted to answer the question of where this signal came from. They were able to answer this in a 2021 study when they determined the structure of GPR158.

Learning the structure of GPR158 was a game-changer for researchers.

“We were completely barking up the wrong tree before we saw the structure. We said, ‘Wow, that’s an amino acid receptor. There are only 20, so we looked at them right away and only one fit the bill…it was wisteria.

– Teacher. Martemianov.

According to a 2017 research report.

After discovering that glycine sends the signal and that GPR158 binds to glycine, scientists were surprised to learn that it was an inhibitor and renamed it mGlyR (metabotropic glycine receptor).

The discovery of mGlyR should open the doors to further research into the treatment of depression, which Professor Martemyanov plans to explore.

Dr. Simon Faynboym, a doctor who has worked with the American Psychiatric Association, discussed the study with Medical News Today.

“The study essentially shows that glycine can interact with the GPR158 system,” Dr. Faynboym said. “There is a biochemical pathway that researchers are proving, but more importantly, the takeaway is that this pathway could be the possible link between why glycine and taurine may possibly have antidepressant properties. .”

Dr. Faynboym is currently a delegate to the California Medical Association.

While Dr. Faynboym stressed the importance of the research, he pointed out that depression is “very complex” and said more than one neurotransmitter is involved.

“There are many factors involved in the treatment of depression,” commented Dr. Faynboym. “Depression involves multiple neural networks, different neurotransmitters leaving and entering neurons at different rates, and involves all parts of the brain. Mental health is one of the most complex medical specialties due to brain dynamics.

With this in mind, Dr. Faynboym stressed the importance of this type of research. “That’s why research papers like this push the field of psychiatry further, because they give us another pinnacle behind the curtain of the great unknown, which is the brain.”

Dr Jessica Turner, a psychiatrist based in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, also spoke with DTM on the results of the study.

“This paper proposes to target a specific receptor in the brain in an area well known to have associations with depression, the medial prefrontal cortex,” Dr. Turner said. “The hope is that with more targeted treatments in the future, we can find better and more effective relief for people with depression.

While Dr Turner calls the findings an “exciting new development”, she stressed that more research is needed.

“Early scientists should find a way to target glycine specifically to mGlyR receptors in the brain,” Dr. Turner said.

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