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Fast-acting antidepressant drugs discovered

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Depression is a relatively common condition among Americans as statistics show that 1 in 10 Americans take antidepressants. Although there are also other treatments for depression, such as psychotherapy, drugs are indicated in certain situations. However, this drugs do not take effect immediately, it takes weeks or even months for some patients to recover. Now researchers have found a new serotonin receptor which could be a new therapeutic target. The study results, published in Molecular Psychiatry, could lead to the development of a new class of antidepressant drugs.

Stephanie Dulawa, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Chicago and senior author of the study,  said that one of the biggest problems in the treatment of depression is the delay in the onset of therapeutic effects.”One of the biggest problems in the treatment of depression today is a delay in onset of therapeutic effects. There has been a great need to discover faster-acting drugs”, researchers pointed out. The fact that there is a delay in the onset of antidepressant effects has an impact on patients, especially the patients with major depressive disorder. Up to this moment, there are only two fast-acting drugs for depression but due to unwanted side effects they are not administered to humans: ketamine and scopolamine.

Fast-acting antidepressant drugs

 The researchers wanted to find a new class of drugs that act quickly, so they tested a biological pathway that is known to cause antidepressant effects. There were investigated several types of receptors of serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in many processes such as mood, appetite, memory. The researchers found that serotonin 2C receptors can become therapeutic targets for a fast-acting antidepressant treatment. It seems that blocking these receptors reduce depression symptoms in just five days, that is a very short time. Normally, the standard antidepressant treatment takes effect in about two weeks. Mark Opal, a graduate student at the University of Chicago and lead author of the paper,  pointed out that it is possible that the onset may be even sooner than that.

It has been found that these serotonine receptors block the release of dopamine, another neurotransmitter involved in mood. Researchers believe that if these receptors are blocked, it means that more dopamine is released in specific brain regions such as prefrontal cortex. “One of the primary advantages to our discovery is that this is much more of an innocuous target than others that have been identified,” Dulawa said.