FEB 06, 2021 9:34 AM PST

Chronic Depression Linked to Reduced Support Cell Function in Brain

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Researchers from Canada have found that people with chronic depression who ultimately commit suicide have significantly fewer levels of certain supportive nerve cells in the brain compared to people with no mental health diagnosis.

For the study, the researchers examined astrocytes- a kind of support cell in the brain that distributes nutrients, keeps charged molecules in balance, and heals trauma to the brain and spinal cord. Previously, researchers found that a protein called glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) isn't expressed in as high quantities by astrocytes in brains diagnosed with depression than those without.

As astrocytes that produce GFAP are a minority of the overall astrocyte population, the researchers set out to identify other features of astrocytes that may influence depression. In this case, the researchers set out to map vimentin, another kind of protein found in astrocytes. To do so, they analyzed brain tissue from 10 men diagnosed with depression who passed away from suicide. They then compared these samples with those from 10 men who died suddenly with no mental health diagnosis. 

In doing so, they found that, like with GFAP-producing astrocytes, vimentin-expressing astrocytes were significantly fewer among brain tissue samples taken from men with depression than those without. Moreover, they found that men diagnosed with depression had twice as few vimentin cells than GFAP cells in the prefrontal cortex. The findings suggest that vimentin likely plays a significant role in chronic depression. How these proteins influence depression, however, and why they decline in number, remains unknown. 

"The promising news is that unlike neurons, the adult human brain continually produces many new astrocytes," says senior author of the research, Naguib Mechawar. "Finding ways that strengthen these natural brain functions may improve symptoms in depressed individuals."

 

Sources: Science AlertFrontiers in Psychiatry

About the Author
  • Science writer with a keen interest in behavioral biology, consciousness medicine and technology. Her current focus is how the interplay of these fields can create meaningful interactions, products and environments.
You May Also Like
MAY 06, 2021
Neuroscience
Obesity Linked to Reduced Blood Brain Flow
MAY 06, 2021
Obesity Linked to Reduced Blood Brain Flow
Researchers at Trinity College Dublin have found a link between obesity and reduced blood flow to the brain.  For t ...
MAY 23, 2021
Neuroscience
Study Links Alcohol Consumption to a Decline in Brain Health
MAY 23, 2021
Study Links Alcohol Consumption to a Decline in Brain Health
Thinking of cracking open a cold one this weekend? Researchers from the University of Oxford have identified a connectio ...
JUN 01, 2021
Neuroscience
Low Levels Omega-3 Linked to Higher Risk of Psychosis
JUN 01, 2021
Low Levels Omega-3 Linked to Higher Risk of Psychosis
Researchers have found that adolescents with lower levels of Omega-3 fatty acids in their blood are more likley to devel ...
JUN 01, 2021
Neuroscience
Depression Linked to Rapid Decline in Kidney Function
JUN 01, 2021
Depression Linked to Rapid Decline in Kidney Function
Researchers have known for some time that depressive symptoms are linked to rapid kidney function decline among patients ...
JUL 05, 2021
Neuroscience
People with Autism More Likely to Self-Medicate with Recreational Drugs
JUL 05, 2021
People with Autism More Likely to Self-Medicate with Recreational Drugs
Researchers from the University of Cambridge have found that people with autism are more likely than people without the ...
JUL 25, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Understanding How Mitochondrial Dysfunction May Cause Parkinson's
JUL 25, 2021
Understanding How Mitochondrial Dysfunction May Cause Parkinson's
Parkinson's disease is a complex neurodegenerative disorder. While age is a major risk factor, genetics and environmenta ...
Loading Comments...