In a breakthrough for anti-depressants, researchers have found a new tiny molecule that posses the potential to act on nerve cells to produce serotonin- the happy chemical. This brain chemical when unregulated causes depression and anxiety attacks in people. It could be a good news for many depression patients as the existing anti-depressants fail to exert significant effect on around 70 percent of the patients. The research was carried by the Weizmann Institute’s professor Alon Chen and his colleagues to study the role of microRNA molecules in the production of serotonin hormone.(Read: Mental health issues in college students – recognize and get treatment before it is too late)
They succeeded in identifying, for the first time, the unique ‘fingerprints’ of a microRNA molecule that acts on the serotonin-producing nerve cells. Combining bioinformatics methods with experiments, the researchers found a connection between this particular microRNA (miR135) and two proteins that play a key role in serotonin production and regulation of its activities. ‘These findings suggest that miR135 could be a useful therapeutic molecule – both as a blood test for depression and related disorders, and as a target whose levels might be raised in patients,’ said Chen. (Read: Taking selfies not a mental disorder)
The scientists noted that in the area of the brain containing the serotonin-producing nerve cells, miR135 levels increased when anti-depressant compounds were introduced. ‘The brain needs proper miR135 levels – low enough to enable a healthy stress response and high enough to avoid depression or anxiety disorders and to respond to serotonin-boosting antidepressants,’ explained the researchers. When this idea was tested on human blood samples, the researchers found that subjects who suffered from depression had unusually low miR135 levels in their blood. On closer inspection, the scientists discovered that the three genes involved in producing miR135 are located in areas of the genome that are known to be associated with risk factors for bipolar mood disorders. The findings appeared in the journal Neuron. (Read: Mental illnesses can reduce life expectancy more than heavy smoking)
What is mental disorder?
A mental disorder or a mental illness refers to a change in behaviour that’s generally associated with distress or disability, behaviour that is not considered ‘normal’ in society. They are usually connected to functions of the brain and other parts of the nervous system. Diagnosis of these disorders is particularly difficult because they are in many cases continuation of normal everyday issues like stress. Common mental health disorders include depression, generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post‑traumatic stress disorder and social anxiety disorder, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Schizophrenia, etc. There are various causes for mental disorders, including genetic predisposition and environmental factors.
With inputs from IANS
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