Can These New Compounds Treat Memory Loss in Depression?

Posted on February 18, 2019

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Memory loss is a known characteristic feature of dementia, and a natural part of the aging process. However, apart from these two, issues with memory can also arise in individuals that experience emotional distress. In particular, research has shown that individuals who showed signs of depression had difficulty in recalling specific events, indicating a poor episodic memory. From this research, researchers at the Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Canada aimed to develop new compounds that had the ability to reverse memory loss that they believe is related to both depression and age progression. Their work was motivated by the lack of medications to treat cognitive symptoms such as memory loss that occur because of mental illness or aging.

Their research began with an initial search for disruptions to brain cell receptors and found such in the GABA neurotransmitter systems. Based on prior research, the GABA system has been widely known to be implicated in mental health problems, especially in relation to mood disorders like depression and anxiety. The function of this system is primarily to regulate the communication between certain brain cells and their activity. Thus, these researchers believed that impairments in receptors in the GABA system were possibly associated with memory loss from depression and aging.

With this information, the team of scientists then developed a series of molecules that works to bind to and activate the faulty receptors mentioned above. These molecules or compounds are modified benzodiazepines which are a type of sedative drugs used to treat anxiety and can activate the GABA neurotransmitter system. Through this, researchers reckon it would repair the baseline mechanism leading to improvements in memory loss symptoms.

To test their conjecture, researchers trialed with mice models, administering a dose of the compound to rodents with stress-induced memory loss. These mice then exhibited normal memory functions in under 30 minutes upon administration and such results were repeated even after multiple trials. Similarly, with age-related memory impairments, memory problems in the models subside shortly after receiving the novel compound. Furthermore, the model trials even displayed a 80% increase in their cognitive performance, up to a level characteristic of a young adult’s brain performance. With daily administration, this positive effect has been shown to last for more than 2 months.

With such promising results that these new compounds can not only reverse memory loss but also address the underlying brain mechanism to causes the problems in the first place, the next step for the team would be to conduct the same trials with humans to test the safety and effectiveness of it. Ultimately, this form of development using molecules is an important step forward in mental health field as if proven successful, their application will expand to other cognitive issues in mental health conditions and perhaps to memory loss that occurs in the early-stages of Alzheimer’s disease as well.


Source material from Medical News Today

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