Researchers identify new compound to treat depression

June 17, 2014

There is new hope for people suffering from depression. Researchers have identified a compound, hydroxynorketamine (HNK), that may treat symptoms of depression just as effectively and rapidly as ketamine, without the unwanted side effects associated with the psychoactive drug, according to a study in the July issue of Anesthesiology, the official medical journal of the American Society of Anesthesiologists® (ASA®). Interestingly, use of HNK may also serve as a future therapeutic approach for treating neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, the authors note.

"The clinical use of ketamine therapy for depression is limited because the drug is administered intravenously and may produce adverse effects such as hallucinations and sedation to the point of anesthesia," said Irving Wainer, Ph.D., senior investigator with the Intramural Research Program at the National Institute on Aging, Baltimore. "We found that the HNK compound significantly contributes to the anti-depressive effects of ketamine in animals, but doesn't produce the sedation or anesthesia, which makes HNK an attractive alternative as an antidepressant in humans."

HNK is one of several different compounds produced when ketamine, an anesthesia medicine-turned-antidepressant, is broken down (metabolized) in the body. Using a rat model, researchers tested HNK to see if the compound alone could produce the same beneficial effects attributed to ketamine without ketamine's unwanted side effects.

In the study, rats were given intravenous doses of ketamine, HNK and another compound produced by ketamine metabolism known as norketamine. The effect each had on stimulating certain cellular pathways of the rats' brains was examined after 20, 30 and 60 minutes. Brain tissue from drug-free rats was used as a control.

Researchers found the compound HNK, like ketamine, not only produced potent and rapid antidepressant effects, but also stimulated neuro-regenerative pathways and initiated the regrowth of neurons in rats' brains. HNK also appears to have several advantages over ketamine in that it is 1,000 times more potent, does not act as an anesthetic agent, and can be taken by mouth, the authors report.

Surprisingly, HNK was also found to reduce the production of D-serine, a chemical found in the body, overproduction of which is associated with neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. HNK's ability to reduce the production of D-serine, while stimulating the regeneration of neuron connections in the brain, may present a potential new therapeutic approach to the treatment of these disorders.
-end-
"HNK's unique properties increase the possibility of the development of a self-administered, daily treatment that works quickly and can be taken at home for a variety of central nervous system diseases," said Dr. Wainer. "This is a very exciting discovery and we hope that the results of this study will enable future investigations into this potentially therapeutic and important compound."

Dr. Wainer and several of the study's authors are listed as co-inventors on a patent application for the use of ketamine compounds in the treatment of bipolar disorder and major depression.

THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF ANESTHESIOLOGISTS

Founded in 1905, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) is an educational, research and scientific society with more than 52,000 members organized to raise and maintain the standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology. ASA is committed to ensuring that physician anesthesiologists evaluate and supervise the medical care of patients before, during, and after surgery to provide the highest quality and safest care that every patient deserves.

For more information on the field of anesthesiology, visit the American Society of Anesthesiologists online at asahq.org. To learn more about the role physician anesthesiologists play in ensuring patient safety, visit asahq.org/WhenSecondsCount. Join the ANESTHESIOLOGYTM 2014 social conversation today. Like ASA onFacebook, follow ASALifeline on Twitter and use the hashtag #ANES2014.

American Society of Anesthesiologists

Related Depression Articles from Brightsurf:

Children with social anxiety, maternal history of depression more likely to develop depression
Although researchers have known for decades that depression runs in families, new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York, suggests that children suffering from social anxiety may be at particular risk for depression in the future.

Depression and use of marijuana among US adults
This study examined the association of depression with cannabis use among US adults and the trends for this association from 2005 to 2016.

Maternal depression increases odds of depression in offspring, study shows
Depression in mothers during and after pregnancy increased the odds of depression in offspring during adolescence and adulthood by 70%.

Targeting depression: Researchers ID symptom-specific targets for treatment of depression
For the first time, physician-scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have identified two clusters of depressive symptoms that responded to two distinct neuroanatomical treatment targets in patients who underwent transcranial magnetic brain stimulation (TMS) for treatment of depression.

A biological mechanism for depression
Researchers report that in depressed individuals there are increased amounts of an unmodified structural protein, called tubulin, in lipid rafts compared with non-depressed individuals.

Depression in adults who are overweight or obese
In an analysis of primary care records of 519,513 UK adults who were overweight or obese between 2000-2016 and followed up until 2019, the incidence of new cases of depression was 92 per 10,000 people per year.

Why stress doesn't always cause depression
Rats susceptible to anhedonia, a core symptom of depression, possess more serotonin neurons after being exposed to chronic stress, but the effect can be reversed through amygdala activation, according to new research in JNeurosci.

Which comes first: Smartphone dependency or depression?
New research suggests a person's reliance on his or her smartphone predicts greater loneliness and depressive symptoms, as opposed to the other way around.

Depression breakthrough
Major depressive disorder -- referred to colloquially as the 'black dog' -- has been identified as a genetic cause for 20 distinct diseases, providing vital information to help detect and manage high rates of physical illnesses in people diagnosed with depression.

CPAP provides relief from depression
Researchers have found that continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can improve depression symptoms in patients suffering from cardiovascular diseases.

Read More: Depression News and Depression Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.