In the past 30 years the treatment for depression and anxiety has pretty much been the same with minimal progress.  Clinical depression has only seen 60%-80% of cases treated effectively with the current treatments out there.  This week they announced promising results in a recent study at Ecole Plytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL).

Following is an excerpt from an article published online in Molecular Psychiatry.  Researchers at the Brain Mind Institute at EPFL explain how understanding the functioning of a molecule called MIF, or macrophage migration factor, may change the way we treat depression:

Clinical depression affects 121 million people around the world, according to the World Health Organization, but only 60% to 80% of cases are effectively treated with current medication and psychotherapy. “These findings underscore MIF as a potentially relevant molecular target for the development of treatments linked to deficits in neurogenesis, as well as to problems related to anxiety, depression, and cognition,” explains Carmen Sandi from the Laboratory of Behavioral Genetics.

MIF is normally thought to play a role in tissue swelling and even cancer development, but its precise location and function in the brain remained a mystery before Sandi’s study. Sandi’s team first detected a concentration of MIF protein in stem cells in the hippocampus, a key area for memory formation and neuron generation during adulthood. New neurons are thought to be linked to the creation of new memories but they may also play an important role in curbing anxiety — previous studies have shown that prolonged periods of stress reduce neurogenesis, and many anti-depressants actually boost the production of new neurons.

By genetically and pharmaceutically manipulating the level of MIF in the hippocampus of rats, the researchers discovered that the absence of MIF significantly reduced the production of neurons and increased anxiety They also found that the lack of MIF decreases the ability of anti-depressants to stimulate neurogenesis.

These findings have led the researchers to conclude that MIF plays an important role in neurogenesis and, in turn, the condition of anxiety and depression. Hilal Lashuel’s group, from the Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology and Functional Neuroproteomics at EPFL’s Brain Mind Institute, had already been interested in MIF, but this discovery has led the team to explore new possibilities for treatments focusing on the MIF molecule.

Story Source:

Adapted from materials provided by Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL).

Journal Reference:

  • 1. L Conboy, E Varea, J E Castro, H Sakouhi-Ouertatani, T Calandra, H a Lashuel and C Sandi. Macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) is critically involved in basal and fluoxetine-stimulated adult hippocampal cell proliferation and in anxiety, depression, and memory-related behaviors. Molecular Psychiatry, 23 February 2010 DOI: 10.1038/mp.2010.15
  • It has been along time since we have seen some progress in this field.  I don’t consider 60% a very good success rate especially now that it is 2010.  This disease has been hidden for too long.  This is the basis for my statement under the title of this blog.  It is only now that stars like Jim Carrey, Halley Berry, Hugh Laurie, Owen Wilson, and also Larry King and Sinead O’Connor who are very outspoken and candid about their battle with depression and trying to raise awareness, that we are finally hearing more about this debilitating disease.

    My big question is, WHY did it take so long? and Why does it take someone who’s face is always in front of the camera to get some reaction?  People are people whether they are famous or not. (This does get me hot under the collar)  The purpose is to raise awareness.  This is so true.  The problem with this is it’s backwards!!

    We should be raising awareness for people to seek help with warning signs. That it is a medical disease not something that is ‘just in their heads’.  We should Not and I repeat NOT have to raise awareness because the research community is slack in looking for a cure or better drug therapy than the one we currently have for the past 30  YEARS!!!

    I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on this!!


    About Donna

    I came from a financial background including banking, insurance and real estate. I am an advocate for people taking there health into their own hands. That includes mental, physical and spiritual health. I am also a mother and grandmother (babcia) to a delightful, rambunctious, curious, beautiful, precious....(I can go on for ever) little boy.. who melts my heart every day.
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    1. I can fully sympathise – my sister is unable to drive outside of the town she lives in….on the other hand I do not have problems if I am driving as I am in control, I do have problems as a passenger as I am not. My therapist told me today that anxiety is not about a place or an activity but about the thoughts you associate with that task and thoughts can be changed, which I found encouraging and I now have to believe this to be true. Cut yourself some slack and take baby steps Love and light


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