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Antidepressants may work by generating new cells

Antidepressants may exert their effect by increasing cell proliferation and neuronal number. It is through this mechanism that Malberg et al. (J Neurosci 2000, 20:9104-9110) believe antidepressants reverse the stress-induced atrophy and loss of hippocampal neurons.Jessica E. Malberg and colleagues at Connecticut Medical Center, New Haven treated groups of rats with three different classes of antidepressant: fluoxetine, tranylcypromine, and reboxetine. There were also two control groups of rats:

By | January 17, 2001

Antidepressants may exert their effect by increasing cell proliferation and neuronal number. It is through this mechanism that Malberg et al. (J Neurosci 2000, 20:9104-9110) believe antidepressants reverse the stress-induced atrophy and loss of hippocampal neurons.

Jessica E. Malberg and colleagues at Connecticut Medical Center, New Haven treated groups of rats with three different classes of antidepressant: fluoxetine, tranylcypromine, and reboxetine. There were also two control groups of rats: one received haloperidol, which is normally used to treat mood disorders in schizophrenics, and the second received no treatment. The researchers injected the rats with human-equivalent doses of the drugs once or twice daily together with the thymidine analog bromodeoxyuridine as a marker for dividing cells.

The team reported in Journal of Neuroscience that after several weeks the rats treated with antidepressant had significantly more new cells compared with the control groups. In addition, these cells seemed to survive longer than control-group cells. Follow-up investigations revealed that these newly generated stem cells matured into neuronal cells. The authors stressed that no extra cell growth was observed in the rats after just a few days. These findings might explain the 'therapeutic lag' often seen between the administration of an antidepressant and its beneficial effects.

Malberg's group conclude that further investigation into drugs that could stimulate the growth of brain cells could prove useful in a range of degenerative diseases, such as Parkinson's disease.

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