Glycine, a common amino acid that assists in building proteins, collagen, and nerve signals in the human body, has been taken down a peg in its overall, often-touted medical usefulness thanks to research out of the Wertheim UF Scripps Institute for Biomedical Innovation & Technology. As laid out in the journal Science, scientists have discovered that the amino acid can transmit a “slow-down” signal to the brain, making it a contributing factor to mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. This discovery presents the potential for researchers to better understand what causes these conditions and could serve as the basis for new and faster-acting medications for mood disorders that prove difficult to properly treat.
“Most medications for people with depression take weeks before they kick in, if they do at all New and better options are really needed,” said Dr. Kirill Martemyanov, the corresponding author of the study and the Chair of the neuroscience department at the institute in Jupiter. “Fifteen years ago we discovered a binding partner for proteins we were interested in, which led us to this new receptor. We’ve been unspooling this for all this time.”
Indeed, Martemyanov and his team, which is comprised of students and postdoctoral researchers, have been working toward this monumental discovery for many years. Instead of searching for straightforward causation or diving into treatment vectors for depression, the team constantly posed the deceptively simple question: How do sensors on brain cells receive and transmit signals into the cells?