Blood test for efficacy of antidepressants in the future?

Scientists have found that a biomarker for depression could show whether a person's antidepressant is working. The discovery could lead to something everyone in the psych world has been waiting for: a blood test of some kind.

The researchers looked at the interaction of neurotransmitters and a protein called Gs alpha. In brain cells, the protein acts like a kind of butler, passing messages from neurotransmitters on the outside and amplifying their messages, [study co-author Mark] Rasenick explained.

When the protein is working properly, it's like a butler whose "hands are just flying, cooking and cleaning at the same time," he said. But when the brain is depressed, "it just sits there in the corner."

That's an interesting observation. This might finally explain the difference between "depressed" brain activity and normal brain activity on an MRI. (By the way, has anyone had an MRI performed for depression?)

Researchers compared the proteins in the brains of people who committed suicide as a result of depression to those who did not. "They found the protein would have worked less effectively in the brain cells of the suicide victims."

Dr. Gregory Simon conceded that doctors cannot determine which antidepressant will work for which person.

"There's a long history of research using patterns of symptoms or biological measures — chemicals measured in blood or spinal fluid — to predict response to a particular antidepressant. None of those hoped-for predictors have significant value.

[Genetic tests] would not eliminate trial-and-error, but it would reduce the waiting time with each trial. But it's a long way from a study like this one to a test that's useful to patients and doctors."

Good news for the skeptics about this research study: It was funded by the U.S. Public Health Service and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. But a test simply to see if an antidepressant is working has the smell of pharma somewhere on it.

(Hat tip: Ephphatha)

More Loose Screws Mental Health News

I’ve been kind of out of the mental health news bit for a while but I’m going to blog about what I can and forget the rest. I don’t have the unlimited time to devote to it like I used to and there are so many other blogs that are way ahead of me. Makes me wonder why I blog about some of this stuff sometimes.

Anyway, instead of dwelling on my pointlessness in cyberspace, I bring you more mental health news…

Pennsylvania becomes the latest state in Wal-mart’s new push to offer a 30-day’s supply of generic drugs at the low, low price of $4!  The average price of a generic drug, according to the Bucks County Times article is $28.92. D-Mac on Will Do names Paxil, as one of a host of anti-depressants that have generics to be offered for cheap. Wal-mart, as with everything they sell, buys so much of the generic drugs in bulk that they are able to sell them cheaply and still make a profit.  Don’t expect pharmacies like CVS or Eckerd’s to follow suit though. The article adds that those companies thrive on “convenience and location.” Meh, if your insurance is accepted at Wal-mart, go for it. I just feel sorry for the poor mom and pop pharmacy store on the corner.

Interesting: depressed people and alcoholics have asymmetrical brain activity.

What a Not-So Novel Idea!

Jotting down a few ideas:

Brain scanHow about a psychiatrist does a blood test on, oh say, 10 different people who seem to have depression… chart symptoms of the same kind, check to see if blood levels are the same or similar, low or high blood pressure, regular pulse, etc? Maybe perform an MRI of the brain and monitor brain activity as the brain is triggered by happy thoughts and then sad thoughts…? What would be the difference (if any)? How about a thyroid check? Why isn’t there a way to measure dopamine and serotonin levels? How can we accurately treat these different neurotransmitters in people if there isn’t a current way to test for those transmitter levels?

Really, I’m not thinking anything new. Hasn’t anyone already thought of/done this?

It also strikes me that when it comes to treating mental illness, neurologists and psychiatrists need to function as one unit.