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'Happy gene' could solve mystery of depression

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  • 'Happy gene' could solve mystery of depression

    A single gene could be responsible for making some people naturally positive and happy while forcing others to be negative and gloomy.

    Scientists have discovered that a change in one "letter" of the gene can have drastic effects on an enzyme that controls levels of the mood chemical serotonin in the brain.

    In mice, serotonin levels differed by up to 70 per cent between animals with one or other of the variants.

    Humans are likely to possess more than two versions of the enzyme. As well as helping to explain why some people are naturally upbeat, while others are prone to depression, the find could shed light on disorders linked to low levels of serotonin, such as clinical depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

    The scientists also raise the possibility of a genetic test to predict the way patients are likely to respond to drugs that alter serotonin levels, such as fluoxetine (Prozac).

    Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, a chemical used to transmit messages between neurons, which has a profound effect on mood, emotion, sleep and appetite.

    Last year scientists discovered an enzyme called typtophan hydroxylase-2 (Tph2), which was thought to govern the manufacture of serotonin in the brain.

    In the latest study, reported last week in the journal Science, the brains of several mouse strains were screened in an attempt to identify the gene that makes Tph2. Dr Xiaodong Zhang of Duke University, the study's lead author, said they were surprised to find not one version of the gene but two.

    His colleague Prof Marc Caron added: "For the first time, we've identified a naturally occurring genetic difference that controls the production of serotonin in the brain."

    When the enzyme variants were studied in the laboratory, the scientists found that they had a major impact on the amount of serotonin cells produced.

    A mouse with one variant produced 50 per cent to 70 per cent less serotonin in its brain than a mouse with the other variant.

    "This single genetic difference has a huge impact on serotonin levels, confirming that the gene is fundamental in the synthesis of brain serotonin," said Dr Zhang.

    The team now plans to look for similar genetic differences and their influence on brain chemistry in human patients with psychiatric disorders.
    \"No, I think Space is a dimension of Time. My theory is that Time is a field and that Space exists as an aspect of Time.\" Michael Moorcock

    \"All I know about anything is \"I wasn\'t. I am. I will not be.\" Michael Moorcock

  • #2

    That is good news. One of the problems with severe depression and depression medication is finding the right combination that works for the individual patient. It's not "one size fits all", unfortunately.

    Add in conditions that generally accompany depression, such as anxiety, and you have quite a cocktail of meds to take daily. If you are fortunate, you can lead a regular life. Many, however, still struggle with day-to-day issues. This can lead to problems at work, with family, and general socializing.

    For the record, I am one of those people. I have a psychologist for talk therapy and a psychiatrist for med therapy. I have been off work and on disability now for a few months, as per my last manager's suggestion. This being backed by, and continueing to be, by my doctors. I've also done out-patient group therapy. Sadly, nothing has really worked and it has impacted my personal life greatly. But, I still consider myself minor league compared to others I have met. I can still go out in public, still go to a movie, go grocery shopping, ect. So many others are not so fortunate.

    Hopefully, studies like the one you bring up will be that light at the end of the tunnel. Not just for those currently undergoing treatment, but for those who have yet to be diagnosed.



    • #3
      This will hopefuly speed up research on the developement of much better drug options for sufferers of depression and neurological disorders.Current treatments and neuroleptics leave patients with few options and often with side effects worse than their original symtoms. Prolonged use of certain of these can lead to permanent physical and neurological damage. Dystonia, dyskinesia, etc, etc...And this is the prescribed treatment.
      \"No, I think Space is a dimension of Time. My theory is that Time is a field and that Space exists as an aspect of Time.\" Michael Moorcock

      \"All I know about anything is \"I wasn\'t. I am. I will not be.\" Michael Moorcock


      • #4
        definitely better diagnosis is necessary...i don't know if HMO's are to blame but it seems like most doctors don't really try to get to the bottom of a person's issues. most just prescribe something that has worked for many people of give you some samples and send you away without really following up on it. when you go back there and say that it doesn't work for you, they just give you another set of meds to try and see which one works best but by that time you have tried so many things with different side effects, you can't keep track of which one was best. i think it is difficult to find a doctor that will see things through and if anyone is so fortunate, please recommend him/her to others. things are frustrating but i know there is light at the end of the tunnel.....