Depression gene identified - Macleans.ca
 

Depression gene identified

Gene therapy might be able to counteract it


 

Researchers at Cornell Medical College have found a gene that can cause symptoms of major depression, and might be able to use this information to help treat it, Reuters reports. The researchers are testing a gene therapy technique in the brains of patients with Parkinson’s disease, which could perhaps be adapted to treat depression. The causes of depression are complex and different patients respond to different treatments. The gene is called p11, which is in a part of the brain tied to reward satisfaction. It helps regulate serotonin, a chemical tied to mood, sleep and memory that’s often targeted by antidepressants.

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Depression gene identified

  1. How long until we can engineer people who are happy no matter how lousy their lot? Has anyone considered that there may be benefits to negative emotions? If your spouse is cheating on you, your kids won't talk to you, and your boss humiliates you at work, YOU SHOULD FEEL BAD! Our solution: modify the person through drugs or gene therapy; problem solved!

    If this is the way we're going to take the human species, we are going to have a @#$%ed up future. Mood organs, anyone (see Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep)?

    • I don't think this relates to the kind of situational or reactive depression that is normal and typical for most people in the face of life events. You apparently have little appreciation of how devastating bi-polar and other genetic forms of depression can be. Perhaps you should get educated before dispensing such glib comments on the topic.

      • I do understand the effects of serious mental disorders, having had experience with them in my family and friends. That's not what I was referring to. I thought that was pretty clear in my original post, but I'm sorry if it wasn't.

        My concern is with the use of drugs to medicate people who are dealing with moderate to mild depression. We live in a culture in which many people seem content to take a pill rather than to solve their problems, and as we've seen with the unbelievable number of people on anti-depressants, doctors are more than happy to oblige (or be the ones to suggest taking a pill instead).

        My worry is that we have such an aversion to any discomfort as a culture that research on things like this will be taken a step beyond helping people with serious conditions and to engineering people who are unable to feel any unpleasant emotions. That's what worries me, and given the propensity of doctors to use drugs to medicate away people's problems (like the ones I cited in my post), I would be surprised if they drew the line at serious mental conditions.

        To summarize: Finding treatments for serious, chronic conditions=good, using science to avoid feeling anything unpleasant (i.e. normal sufferings of life) = bad.

        • Hmmm, you know, I sort of see what your getting at Joe. Maybe I'm a true pessimist, but my hunch is that we're a drugged-up society because we're not just suffering from moderate/mild depression. I think severe oh-god-I-can-barely-cope depression is way more widespread among all humans than we want to admit. Think about it– if a friend has a bad day, you can cheer them up/have a pep talk. But if someone is severely depressed, you just don't want to hear about it because hey you've got your own damn problems in life to worry about. So we don't truly talk with each other about major clinical depression, which is fine.

          Anyhow, in short I agree with your summary, but this research seems to be directed toward chronic conditions and not just preventing occasional unpleasantness.

    • This is the best piece of news I have heard in a long long time. Here they are talking about clinical depression which is the most crippling condition you can imagine. This is not your incident related" feeling sad" story. This is the thing that destroys brilliant careers, the thing that gives you social anxiety that is so bad that you cannot step out of your house to get groceries let alone handle relationships. This is the thing that encourages you to substance abuse- alchohol or drugs. This is the thing that ensures that you never get up in the morning and feel just happy. Believe me this is the best news I've heard in a long long time.

  2. Yes mjy321! The truth is that most antidepressants work as serotonnin reuptake inihibitors – meaning that they stop the body from flushing away the neurotransmitter serotonnin. They don't give you anything extra they just let you keep something you already make in an inadequate amount as compared to the average person. If you make enough the extra that is kept around won't have any effect. It is all to common for people with no real information and knowledge to be certain of their opinion – "always sure but seldom correct".

  3. You know, the more I read my original post, the more I am surprised that you all misunderstood it.

    If it had read: "people with bi-polar disorders and chronic depression: suck it up!", it would have made sense. But I really clearly listed some of the problems that either people that I know, or doctors I've spoken to have either taken or prescribed anti-depressents for, and they do not call for the use of drugs.

    Life's normal problems – trouble with relationships, etc. – are best solved by therapy, time, and/or good social supports, not taking a pill.

    It's also been my experience that doctors fail to properly explain the side effects of these drugs to people (i.e. worse depression, hair loss, digestive problems, sleep disturbances, memory problems, etc.), and sometimes prescribe them for absurd reasons (some examples I know of: restless legs syndrome, fibromyalgia, etc.).

    Consider all of this in light of the changes to the DSMV, which some doctors have charged will classify almost all of us as mentally ill. Mild anxiety? Sick. Mild depression? Sick. Etc.

    That's what worries me, not treating serious problems.

    • The news item's reference to gene therapy for "major depression" indicates that, perhaps, you are the one who misunderstood the issue. It's clearly NOT about the kinds of normal depression in response to adverse life events that you addressed. So your comments were misunderstood because, at best, they were irrelevant to the discussion of neurochemically-based (genetic) depressive disorders.

      Your follow-up comments clarified the misunderstanding.

  4. I think the point is that the diagnosis of depression and treatment choices is between the physician and patient. It really is not for you or anyone else to judge. In fact, you might find it hard to believe that another person feels suicidal when you think they have everything to live for. That just shows that you are not really in a position to make fully informed medically informed decisions on their behalf. Luckily we have well informed physicians who can do that.

  5. Despite all the good work done with cognitive behavioural therapy, counselling, contributing environmental factors— there is an increasing belief among medical and patient communities that severe mental illness has a far greater physiological and genetic component than we have given credit to. The sooner we begin to look at major deression, bi and unipolar as a chemical imbalance of the brain, ( in the same manner as any other chemical in the body ) the closer we will be to finding permenant cures and not just maintainence therapy.