Test Mice Cured Of Depression
Mice cured of depression; could this work for us too?
It might seem like an odd question, but recent studies suggest the key to mouse and human happiness might be closer than you’d ever imagine.
This is one of the reasons why mice animal testing is one of the most common. It has been long suspected that there is a similarity in addictive behaviour between mice and people. This has led to extensive testing on mice to figure out how addiction works and what we can do about it. A new study suggests that depression, often closely related to addiction, may also work the same way for mice and humans.
Why is this research so important?
The need for a breakthrough is serious. Depression is “the leading cause of disability worldwide,” as more than 300 million people across the globe are living with the condition.
The first thing is that depression in humans is caused by factors that affect most mammals. Life changes, stress, social isolation and substance abuse can all be causes.
If we look at things from a mouse perspective, it’s easy to see how they experience these too. A human might lose their house – a mouse may lose its nest. Our stresses may be different – a near-miss car crash vs slipping through a cat’s claws but the idea is universal. And so too may be the solution.
Delta FOSb: the Depression and Addiction ‘on Switch’
The answer lies in Delta FOSb a protein that regulates the reward function of our brain. This protein is one of the most significant in our body. It can turn certain genes off and on and has been linked to addictive behaviour.
In addiction, Delta FOSb increases during substance abuse which can have a knock-on effect on how genes perform their function. Hence much of the deterioration and continued use despite damage due to substance abuse. The recent tests on mice and people suggest that to a lesser extent depression causes lower levels of Delta FOSb just as drug use does.
Tests on those with long-term depression have shown reduced levels of Delta FOSb in their brain. This may be linked to the fact that Delta FOSb at higher levels can increase our resilience to stress and social strain.
Natural treatments for depression
Treatments vary from exercise and lifestyle changes to medications and psychiatric treatment. The use of exercise to both prevent and treat depression is a natural process. This is favoured in treating mild depression in the initial stages.
It works by increasing the neurotrophic release in the brain physical exercise can help improve the condition of the hippocampus. Damage and deterioration of the hippocampus is believed to be both a cause and effect of depression.
These solutions take time. In humans and mice after the removal of a stressor – an aggressive mouse or human bullying – it took weeks to recover from a singular exposure. Even then there is no guarantee, medication may be needed.
There is no doubt that for those with severe depression anti-depressants are life-saving. However, these wonder drugs are not without their drawbacks.
While anti-depressants are improving, most still have fairly serious side effects. NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence, UK) actually suggest holding off on these medications unless the depression is long-term and unmanageable.
Studies on humans who had depression were done post-mortem and found that Delta FOSb levels were still low despite taking anti-depressants. This suggests that although the patients reported feeling better their state of mind was not being measured effectively enough.
Understanding and measuring depression
The possibility of this new study on mice and people is a Delta FOSb based solution to depression. Firstly, doctors could detect depression better by tracing the molecule. This could make it possible to detect if antidepressant treatment is actually working. This can be a difficult thing to measure as depression is such an individual experience and relies on patient reporting.
Also, it suggests value to Delta FOSb treatment to enhance the effectiveness of both natural and medical antidepressants.
Mouse or human we are all vulnerable to the stressors around us. Finding new and innovative solutions will affect the lives of millions across the world.