German scientists have linked a gene to major depression, which could pave the way for new treatments.
They compared DNA from more than 15,000 depressed and healthy individuals to complete their study, with altered letters in the genetic code associated with serious depression.
The anomaly appeared to influence the SLC6A15 gene, which is believed to regulate an important brain signalling chemical called glutamate.
Lead researcher Dr Elisabeth Binder, from the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry in Munich, said: “Because it is assumed that the communication between the neuron clusters is disturbed in depression, we considered whether the gene we had identified could possibly influence this process through glutamate.”
Tests revealed that the DNA changes had an impact on the gene’s activity, especially in the hippocampus brain region which is known to have a vital role in memory.
In depressed patients, the SLC6A15 gene was less active and certain regions of the hippocampus were reduced in volume.
The research has been reported in the journal Neuron.
Co-author Dr Martin Kohli, also from the Max Planck Institute, said: “Current treatments for major depression are indispensable but their clinical efficacy is still unsatisfactory, as reflected by high rates of treatment resistance and side effects.
“Identification of mechanisms causing depression is pertinent for discovery of better treatments.”
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