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Anti-depressant Drugs Stimulate Brain Stem Cells – A Study!

1213599_pillsA team of scientists from the Institute of Psychiatry, a part of King’s College London, have found through a study that the anti-depressant drugs activate a key protein known as glucocorticoid receptor (GR) which then turns on a set of genes responsible for the formation of brain cells from stem cells.

Earlier studies have shown that neurogenesis is decreased in patients suffering from depression. Neurogenesis is nothing but the formation of new brain cells.

According to the researchers, the reduction of neurogenesis may be acting as a contributing factor to some of the psychological conditions such as decreased memory and feeling low which are the symptoms of depression.

Even before this study, researchers were aware of the fact that anti-depressant drugs belonging to the families of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclics could initiate the formation of new adult brain cells, but did not know how.

The research was done on human hippocampal stem cells, the cells that form new brain cells.

These stem cells were treated with an anti-depressant known as Zoloft in the laboratory. It was observed that the stem cells were stimulated by the drug to produce more copies of them. The drug also sped up the process of their formation into adult cells.

However, for this activity to take place, glucocorticoid receptor was essential. This aspect was discovered through the current study.

According to Christoph Anacker, the lead author of the study, drugs taken for depression stimulate the protein and this in turn activates some genes to transform brain stem cells into brain cells.

According to WHO (World Health Organization), more than 120 million people fall victim to depression throughout the world.

The team is anticipating the development of anti-depressants that could be tested on patients in the near future.

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