A new breed of permanently 'cheerful' mice is providing hope for a new treatment for clinical depression. TREK-1 is a gene that can affect transmission of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is known to play an important role in mood, sleep and sexuality. By breeding mice with an absence of TREK-1, researchers were able create a depression-resistant strain.
"Depression is a devastating illness, which affects around 10% of people at some point in their life," says Dr. Guy Debonnel professor in the Department of Psychiatry at McGill University, and principal author of the new research. "Current medications for clinical depression are ineffective for a third of patients, which is why the development of alternate treatments is so important."
Mice without the TREK-1 gene ('knock-out' mice) were created and bred in collaboration with Dr. Michel Lazdunski, in his laboratory at the University of Nice, France. "These 'knock-out' mice were then tested using separate behavioural, electrophysiological and biochemical measures known to gauge 'depression' in animals," says Dr. Debonnel. "The results really surprised us; our 'knock-out' mice acted as if they had been treated with antidepressants for at least three weeks."
This research represents the first time depression has been eliminated through genetic alteration of an organism. "The discovery of a link between TREK-1 and depression could ultimately lead to the development of a new generation of antidepressant drugs," noted Dr. Debonnel.
According to Health Canada and Statistics Canada, approximately 8% of Canadians will suffer from depression at some point in their lifetime. Around 5% of Canadians seek medical advice for depression each year; a figure that has almost doubled in the past decade.
MEDICA.de; Source: McGill University