Marijuana-like brain chemicals work as antidepressant

November 05, 2007

Irvine, Calif., Nov. 5, 2007 -- American and Italian researchers have found that boosting the amounts of a marijuana-like brain transmitter called anandamide produces antidepressant effects in test rats.

Led by Daniele Piomelli, the Louise Turner Arnold Chair in Neurosciences and director of the Center for Drug Discovery at the University of California, Irvine, the researchers used a drug they created, called URB597, which blocks anandamide degradation in the brain, thereby increasing the levels of this chemical.

"These findings raise the hope that the mood-elevating properties of marijuana can be harnessed to treat depression," Piomelli said. "Marijuana itself has shown no clinical use for depression. However, specific drugs that amplify the actions of natural marijuana-like transmitters in the brain are showing great promise."

The researchers administered URB597 to chronically stressed rats which showed behaviors similar to those seen in depressed human patients. After five weeks of treatment, the stressed rats treated with the drug were behaving similarly to a comparison group of unstressed animals. The study appears in the Nov. 15 issue of Biological Psychiatry.

URB597 works by inhibiting FAAH, an enzyme in the body that breaks down anandamide. Dubbed "the bliss molecule" for its similarities to the active ingredient in marijuana, anandamide is a neurotransmitter that is part of the brain's endocannabinoid system and it has been shown in studies by Piomelli and others to play analgesic, anti-anxiety and antidepressant roles. It also is involved in regulating feeding and obesity. Blocking FAAH activity boosts the effects of anandamide without producing the "high" seen with marijuana.

Piomelli and colleagues at the Universities of Urbino and Parma in Italy created URB597. A patent was issued in 2007. The European pharmaceutical company Organon holds the license to the patent and will begin clinical studies on the drug in 2008, according to Piomelli.
-end-
Marco Bortolato, Regina Mangieri, Jin Fu, Janet Kim and Oliver Arguello of UC Irvine; Andrea Duranti, Andrea Tontini and Giorgio Tarzia of the University of Urbino; and Marco Mor of the University of Parma also participated in the study. It was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the University of California Discovery Program and the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression.

About the University of California, Irvine: The University of California, Irvine is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Founded in 1965, UCI is among the fastest-growing University of California campuses, with more than 27,000 undergraduate and graduate students and about 1,800 faculty members. The second-largest employer in dynamic Orange County, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $3.7 billion. For more UCI news, visit www.today.uci.edu.

Television: UCI has a broadcast studio available for live or taped interviews. For more information, visit www.today.uci.edu/broadcast.

News Radio: UCI maintains on campus an ISDN line for conducting interviews with its faculty and experts. The use of this line is available free-of-charge to radio news programs/stations who wish to interview UCI faculty and experts. Use of the ISDN line is subject to availability and approval by the university.

UCI maintains an online directory of faculty available as experts to the media. To access, visit www.today.uci.edu/experts. For UCI breaking news, visit www.zotwire.uci.edu.

NOTE TO EDITORS: Photo available at http://today.uci.edu/news/release_detail.asp?key=1691

University of California - Irvine

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.