Inhibition of en enzyme reduces depression symptoms in mice

As a common mood disorder, depression is estimated to affect 19 million people in the USA. People with depression experience overwhelming feelings of sadness, unpleasure, guilt and hopelessness, which interfere with daily life. Depression is a major cause of disability and suicide worldwide.

Currently, there are more than one hundred depression medications, or antidepressants, such a Prozac, Cymbalta, Zoloft, and Lexapro. However, not everyone can benefit from these medications, and conventional antidepressants require 2-4 weeks of continuous treatment to elicit their therapeutic effects.

To find fast-onset antidepressants, researchers including M J Ramaker and S C Dulawa from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine review previous studies on depression and assess the effects of different treatments. Their findings, published 21 March 2017 in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, shows that blocking a molecule called glyoxalase 1 reduces signs of depression in mice and that blocking glyoxalase 1 works significantly faster than Prozac.

Glyoxalase 1, also known as lactoylglutathione lyase, is an important enzyme that helps remove a byproduct of cell metabolism. This byproduct inhibits nerve cells and affects mood and behavior. Growing evidence shows that modulation of glyoxalase 1 activity can be a way to treat neurological and psychiatric conditions.

In the study, the researchers investigated three groups of mice: the first group that received the new treatment that blocks glyoxalase 1; the second group that received the conventional drug Prozac; and the third group that was left untreated. Results showed that inhibition of glyoxalase 1 reduced symptoms of depression in 5 days while Prozac took 14 days to show therapeutic effect.

Although much research is needed before the new method can be tested in humans, the study indicates that glyoxalase 1 may be a new target for depression treatment.
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