Experts believe they have discovered a previously unrecognized genetic mechanism for major depression — one which could be correctable, in the future, with medication.
Lead researcher Dr. Martin A. Kohli said that the research is important because current medications, while indispensible, have limitations as reflected by high rates of treatment resistance and side effects. The new finding may lead to options for individuals who are not currently helped by medications.
“Identification of mechanisms causing depression is pertinent for discovery of better antidepressants,” said Kohli.
While most authorities agree that depression is influence by a combination of genetic and environmental risk factors, discovering the specific genes that convey the risk has been a difficult endeavor.
Kohli and colleagues performed a stringent genome-wide association study of patients diagnosed with major depression and matched control subjects with no history of psychiatric illness.
The researchers examined the functional relevance of the genetic association between a gene labeled SLC6A15, a gene that codes for a neuronal amino acid transporter protein, and major depression. The finding was confirmed in an expanded study examining over 15,000 individuals.
The authors believe a reduced expression of this gene could increase an individual’s susceptibility to stress, leading to depression. Since the gene appears amenable or receptive to drug targeting, a new class of antidepressant drugs could eventually be developed.
The research is published in the journal Neuron.
Source: Cell Press