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According to a new animal study, the elimination of a specific protein in the body can stimulate new nerve cells and speed up the time it takes for antidepressants to work. The protein is called neurofibromin1 or Nf1 and it normally helps prevent the unrestrained growth of cells. Remove the protein and more cells grow more quickly. This strategy may help treat depression better than current antidepressants that take weeks to work.
The hippocampus in the brain produces new nerve cells. The process, known as neurogenesis, is made possible because of special cells called neural progenitor cells or NPCs. Researchers removed the Nf1 from these NPCs in animal studies. Doing so increased the number and maturation of new nerve cells in the hippocampus which is the learning and memory center of the brain. The mice with the altered NPCs showed fewer depressive and anxiety like behaviors after only seven days of antidepressant treatment.
“Our findings establish an important role for Nf1 in controlling neurogenesis in the hippocampus and demonstrate that activation of adult NPCs is enough to regulate depression- and anxiety-like behaviors,” said co-author Renee McKay, PhD, University of Texas Southwestern. “Our work is among the first to demonstrate the feasibility of altering mood via direct manipulation of adult neurogenesis.”
And apparently the results are long term. After eight months, the mice continued to show improved behavior. This proved that even without antidepressants, the deletion of Nf1 from NPCs in adult mice continued to lessen depressive symptomology.
Source: ScienceDaily, The Journal of Neuroscience
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