A new factor in depression? Brain protein discovery could lead to better treatments

Study in humans & rats shows more physical changes in depressed brains

September 8, 2015

FGF9 Neurons
The green cells show where an injected virus was used to block production of FGF9 in rat brains.
Low. Down. Less than normal. That’s what the word depression means, and what people with depression often feel like. But sometimes, depression can mean too much of something – as new research shows.

The discovery, about a protein called fibroblast growth factor 9 or FGF9, goes against previous findings that depressed brains often have less of key components than non-depressed brains.

In this case, people with major depression had 32 percent more of FGF9 in a key part of their brain than people without the condition. In rats, raising FGF9 levels artificially led to depression-like behavior changes, and repeated social stress caused brain FGF9 levels to rise.

Taken together, the findings provide more evidence that depression is a physical illness. If FGF9 or its effects prove to be a good target for drugs, the finding could eventually help lead to better medications for the mental health condition that affects millions of Americans.

Read the full article at UofMHealth.org »
Read the publication abstract at PNAS »

Renowned neuroscientist Karl Deisseroth to receive Carnegie Mellon’s Dickson Prize in science

January 29, 2014

Carnegie Mellon University will award its 2013 Dickson Prize in Science to Karl Deisseroth, the D.H. Chen Professor of Bioengineering and Psychiatry at Stanford University. Deisseroth is best known for his contributions to optogenetics, a technique that has revolutionized how scientists study neurons in the brain.

Read the press release at Carnegie Mellon University »

BIOESSAYS: Circadian rhythms and mood

December 20, 2013

To understand the link between circadian rhythm regulation and mood disorders requires unification of data and tools across multiple levels of inquiry, from DNA variation, cellular pathways, neural circuits, their dynamics and plasticity, to behavioral outcomes. The circadian-mood connection provides an exceptional opportunity to pursue cross-level integrated analyses.

Watch the video abstract on YouTube »
Read the article at the Wiley Online Library »

Alan F. Schatzberg: 2012/13 Anna-Monika Prize recipient

Nov 27, 2013

The Anna-Monika Prize is awarded bi-annually to clinical scientists who have made major contributions to the understanding of the underlining neurobiological mechanisms of depression and who have advanced the pharmacological options for affective disorders. In 2013, the Anna-Monika-Foundation was again privileged to honor a leading researcher for his groundbreaking work in the field.

This year’s Anna-Monika award winner is Prof. Alan F. Schatzberg, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, USA.

Prof. Schatzberg received the prize for his outstanding research into new therapy approaches, especially for the treatment of delusional depression. He is one of the leading North American clinical and scientific psychiatrists. In his research work, he focuses on the interactions between the stress hormone (cortisol) system and dopamine metabolism, both on a basic science basis and in clinical studies. A special merit of Prof. Schatzberg’s work is the early recognition of the significance of antiglucocorticoid therapies, for example with mifepristone (RU486), and their possible introduction into psychiatric practice. This research approach implemented by Prof. Schatzberg and his group was adopted by a number of companies and is undergoing Phase III clinical trials. In addition, Prof. Schatzberg has supported the use of antiglucocorticoid therapeutic methods by systematic neurobiological research, including neuroendocrine studies, genetics, brain imaging as well as studies of cognition and its relationship to cortisol activity. Prof. Schatzberg’s work has contributed both to a better understanding of the pathophysiology of severe depression disorders and to the development of novel treatment approaches.

Anna-Monika Foundation »