Depressed people have a distinct trait in their brains, according to a recent study, with fewer astrocyte cells – a type of stellar brain cell than the brain of normal people.
Study co-author Liam O’Leary (Department of Psychiatry at McGill University in Montreal) told Live Science that astrocytes are greatly affected in depression.
This has been known for some time, but this discovery showed it occurred across the entire brain, not just a specific brain region. This leads us to think that lower astrocytes have a greater role in depression, which may influence new treatment strategies.
The study, published Feb. 4 in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry, complements a team of researchers that are proving astrocytes may play a role in depression. Developing drugs that increase astrocytes or support astrocytes function may be a new avenue in treating depression, the authors say.
“The good news is that unlike neurons, the adult brain is constantly producing new astrocytes,” said study lead author Naguib Mechawar, professor at the Department of Psychiatry at the University. McGill, said in a statement.
To confirm that these depressive-related changes affected astrocytes throughout the brain and not just those containing GFAP, O’Leary and his colleagues looked for a other astrocytes mark the existence of vimentin, in the brains of people with and without depression.
Researchers labeled two astrocytic markers, GFAP and vimentin, in the brain after death of 10 people with depression and 10 people without psychosis who died suddenly from unrelated causes. related to mental health.
Researchers examined three different brain regions – the prefrontal cortex, the thalamus and the tail nucleus – believed to be involved in emotional regulation, O’Leary said. Overall, the densities of astrocytes in the brain of post-mortem depressed people are lower than those without depression.
According to O’Leary, investigating the relationship between the decrease in astrocyte density and depression will need to be studied more. For example, it is not known whether depressed people lose astrocytes over time or have fewer astrocytes in the first place.
“With tissue from an autopsy, we can only see a snapshot of the anatomy,” he added. So the functional explanation really has to come from animal studies, which will probably help test something and find the difference.
Astrocyte minimization in the brain regions studied here can have a negative impact as these brain regions form a circuit that is believed to be important for decision-making and emotional regulation. Functionality affected by depression. With fewer astrocytes to support them, the nerve cells in this circuit may not function as well as they should.
Researchers hope that new knowledge of astrocytes and depression may lead to new treatments.