Did you know that one in every six adults will suffer from depression at some point in their life? According to the CDC, this means that about sixteen million U.S. adults are affected by depression every single year.
Symptoms of this mental illness can range in severity from person to person but generally result in persistent feelings of sadness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, sleep disruptions, lower self-esteem, and decreased energy levels.
There are currently thirty FDA-approved drugs on the market for treating depression that fall under seven different classes– ranging from selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to atypical antidepressants.
While many of these medications have proved helpful for countless individuals with depression, though, a persistent downfall is the amount of time it takes for these drugs to work.
Patients who are prescribed SSRIs, for example, need to consistently take the drug for two to four weeks before they can expect to feel any of the benefits.
Plus, each medication also comes with a plethora of adverse side effects, with one extreme potential side effect being an increased risk of suicide.
So, researchers from Nanjing Medical University in China recently sought to create a new drug that provides the same antidepressant effect within a shorter time frame and without as many adverse outcomes.
The team primarily focused on what would occur if the brain’s serotonin transporter (SERT) was disassociated from an enzyme known as neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS).
They hypothesized that by breaking this link, the amount of serotonin in one region of the brain– the dorsal raphe nucleus– would decrease; meanwhile, serotonin levels in another brain region– the medial prefrontal cortex– would increase.