Depression symptoms improved through targeting of metabolic deficiencies

Written by Hannah Wilson

Major depressive disorder is estimated to affect almost 15 million American adults, at least 15% of whom are not sufficiently treated by conventional therapies, including antidepressant medication and psychotherapy. A new study from researchers at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine (PA, USA) provides hope for a novel approach to treating the disorder, targeting metabolic deficiencies.
The researchers first observed abnormalities in CSF levels of biopterin, an enzyme cofactor involved in neurotransmitter synthesis, 5 years ago while treating an adolescent with longstanding depression. After receiving an analogue of biopterin to correct the observed deficiency, the patient’s depression symptoms displayed drastic improvements.

Following this success, the researchers searched for metabolic abnormalities in 33 adolescents and young adults with treatment-resistant depression, in addition to 16 controls. Although the metabolites affected varied between patients, researchers identified that 64% of patients had a deficiency in neurotransmitter metabolism, versus none in controls.

When these underlying deficiencies were treated, depression symptoms were frequently observed to improve and some even entered remission.

“It’s really exciting that we now have another avenue to pursue for patients for whom our currently available treatments have failed. This is a potentially transformative finding for certain groups of people with depression,” summarized lead investigator Lisa Pan (University of Pittsburgh).

Source: UPMC News Release www.upmc.com/media/NewsReleases/2016/Pages/l-pan.aspx