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SSRI antidepressant’s effects improved by compound

SSRI antidepressant’s effects improved by compoundResearchers have discovered that a synthetic compound can turn off “secondary” vacuum cleaners in the brain that take up serotonin. This results in the ‘happy’ chemical being more abundant. The study was performed by scientists from the School of Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio and points to novel targets to treat depression.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for carrying chemical signals and is associated with feelings of wellness. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are often prescribed antidepressants. They work by blocking a certain “vacuum cleaner” for serotonin (the serotonin transporter (SERT)) from taking up serotonin. This results in more plentiful supply of the neurotransmitter.

Lyn Daws, Ph.D professor of physiology and pharmacology in the School of Medicine said “Serotonin is released by neurons in the brain. Too much or too little may be a bad thing. It is thought that having too little serotonin is linked to depression. That’s why we think Prozac-type drugs (SSRIs) work, by stopping the serotonin transporter from taking up serotonin from extracellular fluid in the brain.”

However, many patients with depression receive modest or no therapeutic benefit at all. Whilst SSRIs block the serotonin transporter, they do not block other “vacuum cleaners”. Dr Daws said “until now we did not appreciate the presence of backup cleaners for serotonin”. Although SSRIs may block the SERT activity, backup cleaners can limit serotonin levels, ultimately having an effect on the therapeutic benefit to the patient.

This discovery will aid in identifying new targets for antidepressant activity in the brain and will enable chemists to design molecules to block the secondary cleaners.



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