Cool Stuff Last Week: A blood test to personalize depression treatments and understanding Zika virus replication better

  1.     A blood test to help identify which depression medication to use

Patients with depression can now have a blood test done to help identify a more accurate treatment. In a study published in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, scientists found that patients with positive inflammation markers in their blood require a more aggressive treatment for depression.

When you see inflammation usually it is because your immune system is activated, sending white blood cells to help heal whatever is hurt. However, the same immune system that helps with inflammation can interact with the chemicals in the brain. This interaction can alter brain chemistry and lead to depression and make patients unresponsive to current depression treatments. Patients with increased levels of two inflammation markers did not respond to generic depression treatments such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which adjust the balance of chemical signals in the brain. This may be because although SSRIs have some anti-inflammatory function, when inflammation is too high the treatment cannot be as effective.

Although antidepressants are safe they can have serious side effects such as vomiting, insomnia, or increased agitation. It is important that patients have access to all the information they can to find the best treatments for them personally. We hope that this is the first in many steps to increasing mental health treatments!

  1.     A human protein helps regulate Zika replication

Scientists found that a human protein called interferon-inducible transmembrane protein-1 (IFITM-1) is involved in regulating zika replication.  IFITM-1 is activated by interferon, a molecule our bodies release in response to pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites. When IFITM-1 was removed from HeLa cells Zika virus replication increased, while when IFITM-1 was overexpressed (produced above normal levels in cells) Zika replication decreased. Interestingly, when the protein was overexpressed, the cells were more resistant to Zika-related cell death than normal.

This helps scientists focus on developing better methods to combat Zika including boosting IFITM-1 expression.

Michelle Rubin (Editor-in-Chief)
Photo on 3-31-13 at 9.15 PM #2 Michelle is  a fourth year biomedical PhD student. She is extremely interested in science policy and hope to pursue that after her  studies. Let her know what you think of the blog on twitter! @michellejrubin.
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