An Emory University research team led by Andrew H. Miller, professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine, recently released the results of a study proposing a novel treatment target for difficult cases of depression. Inflammation is the body’s innate reaction to a wound, but has also been observed in patients with depression and chronic inflammation is associated with depression cases that do not respond to typical medications and treatments. In the study, participants with chronic inflammation and depression received infliximab, a drug used to treat inflammatory and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, or a placebo in addition to a prescribed anti-depression regimen. Infliximab was found to improve the treatment outcomes for depressed individuals with high levels of inflammation, and is a promising tool leveraging the immune system in the treatment of psychiatric conditions.
For more information about the study, please visit: http://news.emory.edu/stories/2012/09/psych_miller_inflam_dep_archgenpsych/index.html.
The role of the microbiome in human health is of increasing interest in the scientific community. A study led by Dr. Ruth Ley from Cornell University that analyzed fecal samples from 91 women across their gestational period identified that the maternal microbiome changes significantly over the course of pregnancy. The women’s individual microbiomes became less diverse as pregnancy ensued, though as a group the total number of bacterial species present was greatest during the final trimester. Additionally, the changes in gut microbiota during each stage of pregnancy were correlated with the degree of fat and inflammation exhibited by the women.
For additional commentary about the study, The Scientist provides a review of the study and interviews with the research team and other subject matter experts. The scientific article was published in Cell.
Researchers Andrew Miller, MD and William P. Timmie, PhD of Emory University, and Charles Raison, MD, previously at Emory University and now at the University of Arizona, are taking an evolutionary approach to studying the relationships between depression and immune system function.
Due to findings that much of the genetic variation observed in depression is related to changes in immune system function, specifically in inflammation, they propose that this would have offered an evolutionary benefit in terms of being able to fight infections. For example, there are numerous behavioral factors related to depressions that may have been adaptive in terms of restricting or containing infection, including social avoidance and fatigue/inactivity.
To read more about their recent publication, visit the Emory News Center website. Part two of the video above is available through the Emory University You Tube Channel.