Previous studies have shown that anti-depressants make new brain cells, however, until now it was not known how they did it. In a study to be published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, show that anti-depressants regulate the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) — a key protein involved in the stress response. Moreover, the study shows that all types of anti-depressant are dependent on the GR to create new cells.
Depression is expected to be the second leading burden of disease world wide by the year 2020. Recent studies have demonstrated that depressed patients show a reduction in a process called ‘neurogenesis’, that is, a reduction in the development of new brain cells. This reduced neurogenesis may contribute to the debilitating psychological symptoms of depression, such as low mood or impaired memory. With as much as half of all depressed patients failing to improve with currently available treatments, developing new effective anti-depressant treatment still remains a great challenge, which makes it crucial to identify new potential mechanisms to target.