A research team at the Hebrew University has made a significant breakthrough in understanding the biological underpinnings of clinical depression, The Jerusalem Post reports.
The researchers found that alterations in a type of non-neuronal brain cells — microglia — are at the root of depressive symptoms brought on by chronic stress.
Experiments with animals indicate that compounds which act on the functioning of microglia hold out the promise of development into effective anti-depressant drugs.
“We were able to demonstrate that such microglia-stimulating drugs served as effective and fast-acting antidepressants, producing complete recovery of the depressive-like behavioral symptoms, as well as increasing the neurogenesis to normal levels within a few days of treatment,” explained Prof. Raz Yirmiya, director of the Hebrew University’s psychoneuroimmunology lab. Yirmiya, along with doctoral student Tirzah Kreisel, the University of Colorado in Boulder conducted the research.
Their findings were published in the prestigious scientific journal Molecular Psychiatry.
The university’s technology transfer arm, Yissum, has already applied for a patent for the treatment of some forms of depression.