Fast-Acting Antidepressant Closer Than We Think?

When depressed and in the midst of a crisis, there is no time to waste; however, currently all of the antidepressants available take weeks to take effect.[1] A new study suggests that a fast-acting antidepressant is closer than we think. In mice, the drug has produced evidence of a mood lift within 24 hours, and continues to work for sustained relief.1

“What makes this study unique and exciting is that in the same drug we seem to have both of the properties you want in an antidepressant—both rapid and sustained effects,” said Jeffery Talbot, PhD, Director of the Research Center on Substance Abuse and Depression at Roseman University of Health Sciences.1

There are many drugs that are currently available to treat individuals who suffer from depression, but none of them work quickly and cannot be guaranteed to work for everyone.1

“Many people with depression simply don’t respond to available medications,” said Talbot. “There’s still a real need for new antidepressants.”1

The new drug, MI-4, has been shown to cause a rapid antidepressant effect in animal models by blocking one of the brain’s signaling chemicals.1 However, until now researchers were not fully aware of the full-spectrum of its antidepressant properties.1 The new study provides evidence that MI-4’s rapid effects also have a long-term effect.1 It is thought to accomplish these effects through a three-pronged approach known as triple reuptake inhibition.1 This means that the drug has the ability to simultaneously increase the levels of three key chemicals in the brain that are known to affect mood and pleasure: dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.1 Most current antidepressants only target one of these chemicals, which is why they are not effective in all patients.1

The researchers discovered MI-4 with virtual screening, a method that uses computer modeling to find drugs that are likely to interact with particular receptors in the brain.1

“From looking at its structure, one would never have guessed that this drug interacts with the same monoamine transporter proteins as does Paxil or cocaine, but it does,” said Christopher Surratt, PhD, a Professor of Pharmacology at Duquesne University, working on this aspect of the study. “That speaks to the ‘needle in the haystack’ detection power of the virtual screening methodology.”1

After the researchers found MI-4 via virtual screening, they tested its effects in cell cultures, and then in mice.1 They also found it is unlikely to be addictive.1

As depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in the world, it is exciting to see that a fast-acting antidepressant is closer than we think.1

[1] Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). (2014, April 30). Fast-acting antidepressant appears within reach. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 9, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140430161301.htm

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