Discovering Novel Ways to Diagnose and Treat Major Depression
When it comes to accurately diagnosing and treating psychiatric disorders, physicians’ traditional methods often fall short. While they can easily use a series of tasks and tests to diagnose most diseases of the body, psychiatric disorders are completely different. In fact, it can be quite difficult to determine an accurate and objective diagnosis.
Dr. Hector Caruncho, Canada Research Chair in Translational Neuroscience, is trying to improve our ability to diagnose mental health problems by studying animal models, such as rats, that are capable of demonstrating depressive-like behavior. He monitors the rats for behavioural changes while they undergo a series of tests before and after treatment with anti-depressants, and analyzes the results.
But using this research to better understand human beings isn’t easy. Caruncho and his research team are currently working with a protein called reelin that appears to play a role in brain development. It is expressed at lower levels in both patients and animal models with depression. He and his team are trying to understand what this means in terms of how depression develops and whether it may provide important clues that could lead to novel anti-depressant drugs.
Caruncho is also looking at membrane protein clustering in blood lymphocytes (white blood cells) from depressed patients as a potential biomarker of how well treatments work in major depressive disorder. He is trying to use this research to develop a novel diagnostic kit to create a more accurate diagnosis of major depression.
Ultimately, Caruncho hopes his findings will be used in a clinical setting and result in a higher quality of life for patients suffering from major depression.