Depression affects approximately 322 million people across the world, or approximately 2.5 percent of the world’s population, yet only half of those afflicted have been able to benefit from existing treatments. In this video, Inversetakes a look at a new study that might give us an explanation as to why that is.
According to Saito and Kobayashi, “Thirty percent of people on these drugs do not experience an effect. Obviously, we need a new drug! We need another explanation for what could cause depression.”
How it Works
This explanation comes in the form of a protein called RGS8. Saito and her team had previously discovered that RGS8 controls MCRH1, a nifty little hormone receptor that helps regulate mood, eating, and sleeping patterns, aka a volatile blend of factors that, if tampered with, could easily trigger depression.
RGS8 can affect mood and body control on its own, and it can also inactivateMCHR1, suggesting that higher levels of RGS8 would increase the likelihood of depression.
After running some tests on two sets of mice, one genetically engineered to have more RGS8 in their system, they found that the mice with more RGS8 actually displayed fewer depressive traits and seemed to have more drive.
They also noticed when examining the brains of the mice that they had longer cilia in the regions of the hippocampus where there was a higher concentration of RGS8. Cilia are small organelles that help with cellular communication, but if they’re not in good shape, they’ve been linked to all kinds of ailments, like obesity, kidney disease, and retinal disease, which suggests RGS8 might be the key to longer cilia.
Depression is an awful companion, and the brain’s such a complex piece of machinery that we’re still only getting started with unpacking its depths, but Saito’s team hopes that RGS8 will be “a promising candidate toward the development of new antidepressant drugs.” Whether those only end up working for a small portion of people with depression remains to be seen, but considering that all the drugs prescribed for depression since the ‘70s have been targeted toward serotonin-related issues, this new focus on RGS8 could be the equivalent of finding a new wing in a house you’ve been living in for decades.