Nasal spray delivers new type of depression treatment

March 24, 2014

A nasal spray that delivers a peptide to treat depression holds promise as a potential alternative therapeutic approach, research from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) shows. The study, led by CAMH's Dr. Fang Liu, is published online in Neuropsychopharmacology.

In a previous study published in Nature Medicine in 2010, Dr. Liu developed a protein peptide that provided a highly targeted approach to treating that she hopes will have minimal side effects. The peptide was just as effective in relieving symptoms when compared to a conventional antidepressant in animal testing. However, the peptide had to be injected into the brain. Taken orally, it would not cross the blood-brain barrier in sufficient concentrations.

"Clinically, we needed to find a non-invasive, convenient method to deliver this peptide treatment," says Dr. Liu, Senior Scientist in the Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute at CAMH. With the support of a Proof of Principle grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Dr. Liu's team was able to further explore novel delivery methods.

The nasal delivery system, developed by U.S. company Impel NeuroPharma, was shown to deliver the peptide to the right part of the brain. It also relieved depression-like symptoms in animals.

"This study marks the first time a peptide treatment has been delivered through nasal passageways to treat depression," says Dr. Liu, Professor in the University of Toronto's Department of Psychiatry.

The peptide treatment interferes with the binding of two dopamine receptors – the D1 and D2 receptor complex. Dr. Liu's team had found that this binding was higher in the brains of people with major depression. Disrupting the binding led to the anti-depressant effects.

The peptide is an entirely new approach to treating depression, which has previously relied on medications that primarily block serotonin or norepinephrine transporters.

Depression, the most common form of mental illness, is one of the leading causes of disability globally. More than 50 per cent of people living with depression do not respond to first-line medication treatment.

"This research brings us one step closer to clinical trials," says Dr. Liu. In ongoing lab research, her team is experimenting to determine if they can make the peptide break down more slowly, and travel more quickly in the brain, to improve its anti-depressant effects.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Neural efficiency hypothesis confirmed

July 27, 2015

One of the big questions intelligence researchers grapple with is just how differences in intelligence are reflected in the human brain. Researchers at ETH Zurich have succeeded in studying further details relating to suspected ...

Fatherhood makes men fat

July 21, 2015

All those leftover pizza crusts you snatch from your kids' plates add up. Men gain weight after they become fathers for the first time whether or not they live with their children, reports a large, new Northwestern Medicine ...

Words jump-start vision, psychologist's study shows

July 21, 2015

Cognitive scientists have come to view the brain as a prediction machine, constantly comparing what is happening around us to expectations based on experience—and considering what should happen next.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.