In many cities, FondaMental researchers have been studying the biological factors of chronic depression, which is one of the most common psychiatric illnesses. The results of this work, published in the scientific journal Nature Medecine on May 7, 2018, represent an unprecedented step forward concerning the 30% of depressive people who are resistant to existing antidepressants.
A biological marker spotted
The study highlights a protein, Elk-1, as a “prognostic marker of depressions resistant to conventional treatments” and as “target of new therapeutic strategies,” explain the authors of the study in a statement. “Regulating the expression of many genes directly within the cell” , this protein plays an important role in modifying emotions and behavior. In France, more than two million people are affected by depression each year. “Although the pathology is treated well in the vast majority of cases, therapeutic strategies remain ineffective for one in three patients, causing risks of relapses and severe complications , ” the researchers continue. The identification of new therapeutic strategies is therefore a key issue for patients with chronic depression who do not see improvement in standard treatments.
Concretely, this discovery results from a collaboration between clinical and fundamental research teams of the Institute of Biology Paris-Seine (IBPS) (CNRS-Inserm-Sorbonne University), Public Assistance Hospitals of Marseille, the Timone Neuroscience Institute (Aix-Marseille University / CNRS), Douglas Mental Health University Institute (McGill University) and Paris-Descartes University. The originality of the study and the reliability of the results obtained are also due to the methodology used, “which combines three successive approaches: clinical studies, post-mortem brain tissue analyzes and animal models , ” the statement said. Two independent clinical studies were conducted initially in Montreal and Marseille. In patients suffering from depression, they measured, over time (two samples over 8 weeks), the presence of Elk-1 marker in the blood. Identical results, associating poor prognosis with high Elk-1 levels, were found in both studies.
A new treatment under study
Why are these results important? “Beyond the identification of a biological marker implicated in depression, this work has tested, at a preclinical stage, the efficacy of a new patented treatment” , announces the Foundation.