Depression caused by special inflammatory messenger?
Depression is an extremely serious complaint that should urgently be treated by a specialist in order to avoid serious social problems or even the suicide of those affected. The specific triggers of the disease remain largely unclear to this day. Certain messenger substances - so-called cytokines - obviously play an important role here, according to the results of a recent study by German researchers. The scientists hope that their findings could also be used to develop new therapeutic approaches.
The research team led by Professor Harald Engler from the Medical Faculty of the University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE) and Professor Manfred Schedlowski from the Institute for Medical Psychology and Behavioral Immunobiology at the University Hospital Essen (UK Essen) has in the current study evidence of the involvement of cytokines in the Development of depression found. In their view, blocking the messenger substance could also be used for therapeutic purposes. The researchers published the results of the study in the specialist magazine "Molecuar Psychiatry".
What significance does the messenger have for depression?
According to the researchers, around four million people are currently suffering from depression in Germany. The causes of the disease are still poorly understood. Although it has long been suspected that the immune messengers (cytokines) could be involved in the development of depressive disorders, the scientific evidence for this has so far been lacking. The researchers at UDE and UK Essen therefore investigated the role of messenger substances in the development of depression.
Messenger substance is released during inflammation
The cytokines are released by the activated immune cells during inflammation, the researchers explain. This obviously also has far-reaching consequences in the brain of those affected. For the first time, the scientists found important experimental evidence for the importance of immune messengers in the development of depression. In their interdisciplinary study, they were able to demonstrate for the first time in humans that the concentration of the immune messenger interleukin-6 (IL-6) increases in the blood as well as in the cerebrospinal fluid (cerebrospinal fluid) during an acute inflammation.
IL-6 levels also increased in the brain
Professor Engler and Professor Schedlowski further report that the increase in IL-6 in the cerebrospinal fluid was significantly related to the extent of the depressive symptoms, which the test subjects described in surveys. "If the concentration increased, the symptoms increased," the scientists said. They suspect that IL-6 reaches the brain via the bloodstream and can cause depression by modulating neuronal processes. The messenger substance would have a significant influence on the disease and the latter could be directly related to inflammatory processes in the body.
New therapeutic options?
Further studies still have to identify the exact transport mechanisms through which IL-6 gets into the brain, but the current findings indicate new options for the treatment of depressive disorders, the researchers conclude. In your opinion, the messenger substance could possibly be blocked in a targeted manner to counteract depression. (fp)