Syndicate content

Archive - Nov 18, 2013

New Study Suggests “Anti-Ketamine” Might Also Treat Depression

Thirteen years ago, an article in Biological Psychiatry first reported that the anesthetic medication, ketamine, showed evidence of producing rapid antidepressant effects in depressed patients who had not responded to prior treatments. Ketamine works by blocking one of the targets for the neurotransmitter glutamate in the brain, the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) glutamate receptor. Now, a new study printed in the November 15, 2013 issue of Biological Psychiatry reports that enhancing, instead of blocking, that same target – the NMDA glutamate receptor – also causes antidepressant-like effects. Scientists theorize that NMDA receptor activity plays an important role in the pathophysiology of depression, and that normalizing its functioning can, potentially, restore mood to normal levels. Prior studies have already shown that the underlying biology is quite complex, indicating that both hyperfunction and hypofunction of the NMDA receptor is somehow involved. But, most studies have focused on antagonizing, or blocking, the receptor, and until now, studies investigating NMDA enhancement have been in the early phases. Sarcosine is one such compound that acts by enhancing NMDA function. Collaborators from China Medical University Hospital in Taiwan and the University of California in Los Angeles studied sarcosine in an animal model of depression and, separately, in a clinical trial of depressed patients. “We found that enhancing NMDA function can improve depression-like behaviors in rodent models and in human depression,” said Dr. Hsien-Yuan Lane, the corresponding author on the article. In the clinical portion of the study, they conducted a 6-week trial where 40 depressed patients were randomly assigned to receive sarcosine or citalopram (Celexa), an antidepressant already on the market that was used as a comparison drug.