Drugs Health

Fast-acting new antidepressant compound found


HQ Team

October 28, 2022: Scientists have developed a new antidepressant compound that appears to work significantly faster than current treatments for depression. The drug has only been tested in mice brains, but the new research could eventually pave the way for a new fast-acting antidepressant.

Anti-depressants come with unpleasant side effects, including mood swings, schizophrenia and the possibility of addiction. A new class of fast-acting anti-depressants holds hope for millions suffering from this disorder.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants, and they work on serotonin, a neurotransmitter that controls mood, cognition, reward, learning, and memory. The neurotransmitter picks up the serotonin from in between the neurons after it is activated.

Drugs help control serotonin levels in the brain and produce an antidepressant effect. The SSRIs act as controllers and block the reuptake of serotonin from in between neurons. This enables easier passing of signals between neurons.

This newly developed molecule also targets the serotonin transporter but dodges some of the troubles seen with SSRIs.

Serotonin transporter and neural enzyme

Nanjing Medical University scientists in China carried out an experiment with mice brains by disrupting the connection between the serotonin transporter and an enzyme called neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS). This was done through the new compound named ZZL-7. It regulates the serotonin-producing neurons in the dorsal raphe nucleus, a part of the brain stem that produces serotonin for the rest of the central nervous system. 

ZZL-7 was used by the scientists to disconnect the serotonin transporter from nNOS in the brains of mice. It reduced intercellular serotonin in the dorsal raphe nucleus, dramatically increasing serotonin release into the medial prefrontal cortex, producing a fast-onset antidepressant effect.

SSRIs are used for people experiencing major depressive disorder and other mental health issues. However, there are doubts about how effectively they improve quality of life in the long run.

SSRIs medicines include, citalopram, escitalopram, fluvoxamine,vilazodone, etc. They are slow-acting and come with many unpleasant side effects and are a suicide risk too.

ZZL-7 seems to act fast on mice and could effectively reduce the risk factors.

The study authors explained that the compound “elicited an antidepressant effect 2 hours after treatment without undesirable side effects.” 

At the moment, the experiment has worked on mice. The pathway from a lab experiment to human trials and approval is a long winding one. It will be years before we see success in this medicine reaching doctors’ prescription pads.

If successful, the research will be a boon for millions worldwide who are experiencing depression. According to the WHO, depression is a common illness worldwide, with an estimated 3.8% of the population affected, including 5.0% among adults and 5.7% among adults older than 60. Approximately 280 million people in the world have depression

The new study was published in the journal Science.

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