Study Explains the Rapid Synaptic Effect of Ketamine

In Education

Researchers from Vanderbilt University have discovered that specific synaptic effects are responsible for the immediate antidepressant effect of ketamine.

Many scientists have looked into ketamine as it causes sustained and rapid action in patients with treatment-resistant depression. A previous study shows that the drug causes a form of synaptic plasticity in the brain’s hippocampus, which numerous scientists agree is involved in the treatment and pathophysiology of depression. Experts say that patients with significant depression experience a reduction in hippocampal volume.

Lisa Monteggia, the lead study author, director of the Vanderbilt Brain Institute, and professor of pharmacology, states that the team looked into eEF2K’s role. The protein plays a part in ketamine’s rapid antidepressant effect. They discovered that triggering similar synaptic actions without the protein caused effects similar to those ketamine produced. No other study has tried to evaluate if the synaptic effects ketamine produces cause its behavioral effects.

The study gives information on the therapeutic effect of ketamine. It also lets scientists know if another therapy that targets a similar pathway can be an antidepressant.

Cases of depression are on the rise

The research could not have come at a better time as cases of depressions worldwide are on the rise. Depression affects about 264 million people. The World Health Organization (WHO) calculates that it costs $1 trillion in lost productivity.

Although there are medications to treat depression, many take weeks before working for a patient, while others don’t work for about half. The unavailability of effective medication creates a problem as people with depression are more likely to commit suicide.

The team conducted the study to find an effective therapy for depression and thus reduce treatment-resistant depression and lives lost by suicide.

The researchers will further evaluate the specific synaptic effects that cause antidepressant activity. Their goal is to correlate the synaptic changes to behavioral changes through monitoring the effects of the changes on neuronal circuits.

Ketamine was an intravenous anesthetic

Ketamine has for a long time garnered the interest of researchers. The drug, which was an intravenous anesthetic is currently for treating depression. In 2019, the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved esketamine. The drug is a nasal spray for treating drug-resistant depression.

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