Chinese researchers identify key protein behind depression

Chinese researchers identify key protein behind depression   2013-08-30

WASHINGTON, Aug. 29 (Xinhua) — Chinese researchers said Thursday that they have identified a key protein in the brain responsible for the development of depression, offering a fresh avenue in the search for therapies to treat depression. Previous studies have found that cells in a brain region called lateral habenula (LHB) are hyperactive in depressed individuals, but scientists haven’t known what triggers them.Curious about molecular-scale activity in the LHB of depressed people, the researchers from the Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, used a technique called quantitative proteomic screening to examine the proteins in the LHB tissue of regular rats and rats that had been depressed since birth.

The researchers reported in the U.S. journal Science that a protein called CaM was nearly twice as abundant in the depressed rats.

When the researchers gave depressed rats antidepressant drugs, not only depressive symptoms of the animals improved significantly, but also the amounts of the protein in the LHB tissue dropped significantly.

To understand what level of the protein might be required in the LHb to cause depressive behavior, they injected variable levels of this protein into regular rats and mice using viral vectors and found LHb cell activity spiked in both animals.

After 10 days, the researchers tested the engineered animals’ attentiveness to sugar, a substance typically of interest to rodents, and also put them in forced swim tests to see how willing they were to fight to stay afloat.

They found that animals with very high CaM levels showed less interest than their counterparts in the sugar, and exhibited less “fight” in the swim test — both symptoms of depression.

Furthermore, depressive symptoms were reversed when the researchers reduced CaM expression using a technique called RNA interference.

“Our study shows that depression could be reversed via regulating a molecule’s expression levels in a part of brain,” Professor Hailan Hu at the Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, who led the research team, told Xinhua. “Hence, it provides a new potential target for gene therapy of depression.”

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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