Is depression curable? I often get the question asked of me “is depression genetically inherited?” This article caught my attention because I recently posted an article that suggested that environmental stress could change certain genes which would give an individual a predisposition for mental illness. The causes of mental illness are of great interest to me as I have been practicing psychiatry since 1997 and find the field fascinating and an area of medicine that has great potential for growth in genetic studies.
Is Depression Curable – Will Probably Be Answered Through Genetic Engineering
Mental illness has to start somewhere in the gene pool of an individual’s family of origin; therefore, this introduction to the family genetics had to be caused by something other than the DNA. I suppose that this also entails another issue viz. if the mental illness was initially introduced to the gene pool by means other than the DNA, then of logical necessity; mental illness can be caused by factors other than genetics such as environmental issues. This would also imply that even if someone today, having no family history of mental illness; can acquire an illness through other means such as genetic mutations, biological factors, toxins, stressors, and other environmental factors.
The following article claims that they may have isolated a certain area in the brain that is responsible for pleasure and likewise displeasure aka. depression. Genetic therapy might be able to repair or change the brain function by adding a missing brain protein p11 to this specific area of the brain. If this is the case, depression may be curable. This study gives hope for finding a cure for depression and other mental illnesses through altering the genes in the brain. Please note that this is probably years out if it indeed works; however, it offers promise that we are on the right path to curing mental illness instead of just treating the symptoms.
It has long been hypothesized that people addicted to stimulants such as cocaine or methamphetamine damage their brains to the extent that they are no longer able to experience pleasure. This drug abuse has altered the brain’s chemistry with regards to the production of the three primary chemicals responsible for our moods in response to the drugs. We know this happens to a certain degree with those who smoke cigarettes and receive an “endorphin rush”; albeit this is reversible. Even over-eating can change the chemistry of the brain and like cigarettes and the need to smoke more and more, you have to consume more food to obtain the same levels of pleasure.
Is Depression Curable – This is a complicated issue and there is on one answer at this time
The article acknowledges that depression is a much more complicated illness than simply dealing with an isolated portion of the brain but it does bring some hope in that it would be the beginning of a cure for depression instead of a treatment of the symptoms,which is how we presently treat depression. I believe that soon we may be able to genetically alter the brain thus enabling it to regulate the three neurotransmitters: serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine thus preventing the onset of depression. The Leaps and bounds that are being made in the field of genetics gives us great cause for hope in a future cure for mental illnesses. Following is the article:
Gene Therapy May Be Powerful New Treatment For Major Depression
Medical News Today
October 22, 2010
In a report published in the Oct. 20 issue of Science Translational Medicine, researchers at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center say animal and human data suggest gene therapy to the brain may be able to treat patients with major depression who do not respond to traditional drug treatment.
The researchers hope to rapidly translate their findings into a human clinical trial using the same kind of gene therapy modality the investigators have pioneered to treat Parkinson’s disease. A 45-patient randomized blinded phase II multi-center clinical trial using the gene therapy to treat Parkinson’s has recently ended and results are being readied for publication.
“Given our findings, we potentially have a novel therapy to target what we now believe is one root cause of human depression,”says the studies senior investigator, Dr. Michael Kaplitt, associate professor and vice chairman for research of neurological surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College and a neurosurgeon at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
“Current therapies for depression treat symptoms but not underlying causes, and while that works for many patients, those with advanced depression, or depression that does not respond to medication, could hopefully benefit from our new approach,” adds Dr. Kaplitt.
The Science Translational Medicine study demonstrates that a brain protein known as p11 in a single, small brain area, the nucleus accumbens, is critical to the feelings of reward and pleasure that are often missing in depression. This brain region had primarily been studied in addiction research, but the inability to find satisfaction with positive life experiences is one of the major sources of disability in depression.
While investigators believe that depression is a complex disorder that likely involves a number of brain areas and neural circuits, they say their findings suggest that restoring p11 may significantly alter the course of depression in humans.
“Applying molecular neurobiology and gene therapy to depression could dramatically alter the approach to psychiatric diseases,” Dr. Kaplitt says. “Our results provide further evidence that the underlying causes of psychiatric disorders are due to molecular changes in key brain circuits, so that they are much more similar to common neurological disorders — such as Parkinson’s disease — that might be helped by restoring molecular function.”
The study pulls together human and animal data contributed by a team of researchers at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell, as well as by investigators at Rockefeller University, Karolinska Institute in Sweden, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Neurologix in Fort Lee, N.J. Is Depression Curable…only time will tell!