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Arthritis Drugs May Treat Depression

Arthritis Drugs May Treat Depression

Thursday, 21 March, 2019 - 05:30
Close-up of doctor holding a pills in the hands (iStock)
London - Asharq Al-Awsat
Scientists at the University of Cambridge said anti-inflammatory drugs could offer hope for people with depression.

New avenues for potential treatment were highlighted after the examination of genetic data from 370,000 Britons to explore the condition’s links to heart disease and inflammation, they explained.

The research led by Dr. Golam Khandaker of the University of Cambridge, suggests that blood proteins linked to inflammation are likely to play a part in causing depression, adding that the work offered a "new explanation for a major mental illness."

It has been known for decades that people with heart disease are more likely to suffer from depression, but the biological link was not understood.

The study published in the journal "Molecular Psychiatry" suggests that inflammation, which is a natural response against harmful environmental factors, anxiety or infection - is a key link to depression.

Khandaker is currently testing the tocilizumab, an anti-inflammatory drug used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, to see if reducing inflammation leads to improvement in mood and cognitive function in patients with depression.

If the test goes well, the results could alter the treatments of depression, as the majority of drugs used to cure depression affect the way the brain works and transmits serotonin.

The new research also answers some questions such as why do exercises that reduce inflammation improve depression symptoms. It also assumes that avoiding sugar, fat and smoking - all of which increase inflammation - promotes mental and psychological health.

First, the team looked at whether family history of coronary heart disease was associated with risk of major depression. They found that people who reported at least one parent having died of heart disease were 20 percent more likely to develop depression at some point in their life.

Next, the researchers calculated a genetic risk score for coronary heart disease, but they found no strong association between heart disease and the likelihood of experiencing depression.

Later, the team investigated 15 biomarkers - biological 'red flags' - associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease. They found that triglycerides and the inflammation-related proteins IL-6 and CRP were also risk factors for depression. Both IL-6 and CRP are inflammatory markers that are produced in response to damaging stimuli, such as infection, stress or smoking.

"It is possible that heart disease and depression share a biological mechanism with a key link that leads to the emergence of two types of disease in two different organs of the body : the heart, blood vessels, and brain. Our study assumes that inflammation may reflect this common link," The Times newspaper quoted Khandaker as saying.

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