Depression affects over 300 million people worldwide, yet it continues to be poorly understood. Even with all of our advances in medical technology, depression treatment is still a guessing game of balancing lifestyle shifts with therapy and various pharmaceuticals—and there is no guarantee of success.
While some people find much-needed relief in using antidepressants, the sad truth is that antidepressants don’t even work for 30 percent of those suffering with depression. But hopefully, that won’t be the case for much longer.
Scientists believe they have discovered an entirely new form of depression, one that requires radically different treatment.
Currently, our understanding of depression is based on the monamines hypothesis, which addresses an imbalance in serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain. More than 90 percent of antidepressants currently treat depression by working to balance serotonin and norepinephrine levels, but this new form of depression may have absolutely nothing to do with serotonin levels. In fact, it may relate to a protein imbalance, which would require an entirely different treatment.
According to recent research, conducted by Hiroshima University, the protein known as RGS8 may have a powerful affect on mood disorders. Since RGS8 activates the hormone receptor MCHR1, which regulates things from mood to sleep to appetite, low levels of RGS8 may lead to an imbalance in these areas, which can manifest as depression.
In this type of depression, serotonin and norepinephrine levels are not involved whatsoever.
In the study, half of a group of mice were genetically engineered to have more RGS8, while the other half were used as a control group. The mice were then put through a swim test. Mice who remained immobile for a longer period of time were said to be presenting depressive symptoms.
The mice with more RGS8 were more mobile, and therefore viewed as less depressed. The confirmation of this concept could lead to the development of medication to address this protein imbalance, providing life-changing relief for millions who are unable to effectively manage their depression symptoms using current pharmaceutical methods.
Of course, animal studies don’t always translate into human results. This research is by no means conclusive, but it does bear promise that we will better understand how to treat all forms of depression in the future.
Depression is a serious disease that no one should have to live with. If we can develop a way to treat the millions of people who are not responsive to traditional antidepressant treatment, it will be a huge win.