Molecules that influence depression identified
UN/DICYT This was one of the discoveries of McGill University Psychologist and Biologist Juan Pablo López, a special invitee to the Universidad Nacional de Colombia (UNal) and PhD candidate of the abovementioned University in Montreal on psychiatric disorders.
López did a presentation of his work for UNal Institute of Genetics and spoke about the importance of working in understanding mental disorders to develop adequate treatments according to the specific case of each patient.
“We must continue to advance in the field of psychiatry as others have in fields such as cancer; we are very behind and still do not know what happens in the brain of people,” he said.
For his doctoral thesis project, he analyzed brains of people which suffered from depression and committed suicide and compared them with psychiatrically normal people.
“During the first study we discovered a specific molecule, known as microRNA 1202, which had exceptionally low levels in brains of depressive people,” he noted.
According to the analysis, the molecule is present only in primates and is in charge of recruiting glutamine, an amino acid which plays a part in helping people respond to certain situations, activities or environmental stimuli.
“We concluded that if levels of microRNA are regulated, depression will diminish, because the drug would be working on the cause of the disease,” he said.
During the research they discovered that these molecules could be found not only in the brain but also in blood analyses so this would help to know how patients capture microRNA and how they respond to drugs.
During the second stage they analyzed the behavior of 500 patients treated with antidepressants which would help stabilize RNA levels and observed positive changes during treatment.
“The idea behind the project was to analyze patient response and observe which biological markers could provide information that help determine the specific cause of depression, so they could have the appropriate drug for their treatment,” said López.
These discoveries are the first steps into designing better treatments and continue researching which work better according to the type of patient. “We are progressing towards 100% personalized medicine, because we can develop drugs which can be appropriate for only one person,” he added.
In the future they hope that when a patient visits a psychiatrist they can use all this information and avoid using treatments that do not pertain to his/her particular disorder. “We can save a lot of time and avoid unnecessary treatment to people, if they are treated with the right prescription. There's still a lot of work ahead but we are on the right track,” he said.