Scientists have discovered a new compound that is fast-acting and effective in treating depression in laboratory mice. This new and nontoxic compound may lay the foundation that could make it applicable in humans in the future.
The ground breaking discovery was spearheaded by neuroscientists from Johns Hopkins Medicine who suggest that the compound produces fast anti-depressant effects. Previously proven to be nontoxic for humans and can block cocaine craving in the brains of mice, they found that it can also deliver anti-depressant effects to laboratory mice within just a few hours.
"One of the promising things about CGP3466B is that it targets a new network of proteins," explained Dr. Solomon Snyder, professor of neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
"That means it may work in patients who are unresponsive to other types of drugs and it lays the foundation for the development of a new class of fast-acting antidepressants that target the same network," he added.
Published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, the study revealed that the compound specifically targets a new system of proteins in the brain. Previous medicines for depression target the neurotransmitter, serotonin, in an effort to increase its level. In the past, people with depression are thought to have deficient amounts of serotonin.
The mechanism of action of CGP3466B or CGP is similar to that of ketamine, which is widely known for its use as an anesthetic in certain procedures like surgeries. It works in the brain to inhibit pain sensation and recreationally, it can be used as a hallucinogen.
In the past, ketamine has been thought to be an alternative to anti-depression drugs because it can rapidly reduce depressive symptoms within just hours. In some cases, its effect may last for months. Doctors, however, are reluctant to use this compound since higher doses can cause serious effects to the brain including psychosis, schizophrenia-like symptoms and mental distortion.
Dr. Snyder and his team hope that by understanding how ketamine works in the brain, their study could shed light in the development of a better drug to treat depression.
"CGP3466B works on the same network of proteins as ketamine, but since it works later in the chain reaction, it has fewer side effects," Dr. Maged Harraz, first author of the study and a research associate said.
Since the scientists incurred positive and optimum tests with the new compound on mice, they hope that CGP3466B will soon be developed for human use. They believe that since the compound is nontoxic and non-addictive, humans with depression may benefit from this discovery.
"There weren't many people focusing on it...but we found it fascinating," Snyder said. "This is the most potent action of any drug I have encountered in 45 years of research with the exception of botulinum toxin [Botox]."
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