February 24, 2023 | 2:08 PM
A new way to treat depression may be on the horizon.
A growing body of research points to an unlikely cause of the condition — inflammation — that could lead to more targeted solutions for people suffering from the condition, the Washington Post reported.
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to illness or injury. The body signals the immune system to send inflammatory cells to fight disease or help heal it.
However, if the cells are shipped when the body doesn’t really need them, it can cause chronic inflammation, which is known to be a symptom of several diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease.
An inflammatory response in the brain – called neuroinflammation – can alter neural circuits and can cause or exacerbate depression. The research suggests that about 30% of depressed patients have increased inflammation.
How depression, which is said to affect nearly one in 10 Americans, manifests itself varies from person to person.
“It’s not like depression is some kind of generic condition that’s the same for all people,” Andrew Miller, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University School of Medicine, told the Washington Post. “It’s very different depending on who it is and what they’re experiencing.”
Antidepressants are commonly prescribed, but according to the publication, only 30% of patients who take them can beat depression.
A controversial study by University College London last year cast doubt on the effectiveness of antidepressants.
For the group of depressed patients who have increased inflammation, this information could help create personalized treatment, such as taking anti-inflammatory drugs.
“We’ve reached the tipping point,” Miller said. “And we know enough at this point to target the immune system and its downstream effects on the brain to treat depression. We’re there.”