Scientists claim that a new drug can treat depression in less than 24 hours without major side-effects. The findings that have been published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology will have to be confirmed before clinical trials are planned. If the trials are successful, the drug might replace the current drugs that take around 3 to 8 weeks to treat patients.
Researchers from the US have recently tested a new antidepressant drug on lab rats. According to them, the medication can treat the symptoms of the condition within one day as opposed to those found on the market (like Prozac and Lexapro) that take from 3 to 8 days. Therefore, were the drug to be as effective on humans, it would constitute the ideal drug.
“Our results open up a whole new class of potential antidepressant medications,” lead researcher Scott Thompson from the University of Maryland said in press release. “We have evidence that these compounds can relieve the devastating symptoms of depression in less than one day, and can do so in a way that limits some of the key disadvantages of current approaches.”
Prozac and Lexapro, and currently used drugs, also known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), work by limiting the reabsoption of serotonin into the brain’s presynaptic cell. This is thought to enable brain cells to send and receive chemical messages in a better manner, thereby boosting the patient’s mood.
The different SSRIs available though come with major side effects. They all differ from each other in terms of chemical contents, and might lead to nausea, dizziness, insomnia, weight gain, decreased libido, and even erectile dysfunction. Furthermore, patients only feel much better after one or two months.
To avoid the current problems, Thompson and his team directed their efforts to another neurotransmitter, an inhibitory compound known as GABA. Inhibitory neurotransmitters operate by calming the brain and balancing the person’s mood.
On the other hand, excitatory neurotransmitters stimulate the brain. According to the scientists, in people with depression, the excitatory messages are not sufficiently strong in certain brain regions, and the way to combat this is to decrease the concentrations of inhibitory neurotransmitters in those specific areas.
That was how Thompson and his team turned to GABA. These class of compounds known as GABA-NAM was tested in rats exhibiting symptoms of depression; it was found out that these compounds balanced out the work of the different kinds of neurotransmitters to stabilise their mood in less than 24 hours. Furthermore, they limited side effects.
“These compounds produced the most dramatic effects in animal studies that we could have hoped for,” said Thompson. “It will now be tremendously exciting to find out whether they produce similar effects in depressed patients. If these compounds can quickly provide relief of the symptoms of human depression, such as suicidal thinking, it could revolutionise the way
patients are treated.”
The effects of the compounds have to be tested on humans now.