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Breakthrough in stress control

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Scientists have had a breakthrough discovery in the regulation of stress. Neuroscience researchers demonstrated that the physiological response to stress depends on neurosteroids acting on specific receptors in the brain. In addition to that, they were able to block the response in mice. These critical receptors may be drug therapy targets for future pharmacological control of the stress-response pathway.

The stress-response pathway is also referred to as the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis. It determines the levels of cortisol and other stress hormones the body creates. In addition to being a key component of depressive disorders, the HPA is also associated with obesity, premenstrual syndrome postpartum depression, Cushing’s syndrome and other diseases including epilepsy and osteoporosis.

“We have identified a novel mechanism regulating the body’s response to stress by determining that neurosteroids are required to mount the physiological response to stress. Moreover, we were able to completely block the physiological response to stress as well as prevent stress-induced anxiety,” explained author Jamie Maguire, PhD, assistant professor in the department of neuroscience at Tufts University School of Medicine.

In addition to finding that stress causes a neurosteroid-induced increase in blood corticosterone levels, they also found that blocking the synthesis of neurosteroids is sufficient to block the stress-induced elevations in corticosterone. Doing so prevented stress-induced, anxiety-like behavior in the lab mice. “We have found a definite role of neurosteroids on the receptors regulating CRH nerve cells and the stress response,” said Maguire.

This is excellent news for the possibilities of new treatments and strategies for controlling anxiety and stress disorders.

Source: TUSM, MedicalNewsToday

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