Chinese Research Team Uncovers Fast-Acting Antidepressant Treatment

A team of researchers from Nanjing Medical University (NMU) in China have made public their findings from a study meant to address mental disorder treatment from a new perspective. Treating depression by artificially increasing serotonin levels — which can take several weeks to help mitigate symptoms, often leads to unwanted side effects, and isn’t a compatible treatment for all patients — is not effective enough to warrant further honing, said the researchers. Instead, they’ve found a fast-acting drug for depression and verified its power through a study with mice, wherein the drug took effect after only two hours and otherwise showed high potential for human treatment.

“[The previous treatments] do not work immediately after being administered and in some cases they take effect in two to three weeks or even a month, which can be detrimental for patients who are severely depressed or have suicidal tendencies,” said the study’s coauthor, Zhou Qigang. “Our aim is to . . . develop a fast-onset antidepressant that can solve the problems of the old treatments.”

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The altered approach entailed dissociating SERT as well as an enzyme known as neuronal nitric oxide synthase, or nNOS. For mice, this method did indeed drop serotonin in the dorsal raphe nucleus while also triggering a higher release of serotonin in the medial prefrontal cortex, thereby achieving a fast-acting antidepressant effect. A new compound, ZZL-7, which was developed by NMU’s researchers, is capable of disrupting the serotonin transporter-nNOS interaction in the span of two hours.