Research Features

Ketamine depression treatment development

An international collaboration of scientists have now isolated a Ketamine metabolite with anti-depressant qualities. The researchers hope potential breakthrough could lead to the development of future medication for severe depression that is resistant to current treatments.

 

Experts estimate that depression affects almost 1 in 6 of us at some point in our lives. Whilst the severity of symptoms can vary, there are major depressive disorders that can be particularly difficult to treat. Unfortunately, certain types of severe depression just do not respond to traditional antidepressants and mood stabilisers– or even in some cases – electroconvulsive therapy.

A single dose of ketamine has rapid and lasting antidepressant effects in patients with major depression or bipolar disorder. The Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HRSD) is a questionnaire used to evaluate the severity of patients’ depression. Less than two hours after ketamine application, HRSD scores decreased significantly, and the effect lasted for several days. (Image courtesy of Carlos A. Zarate)

Ketamine has recently excited mental health researchers by proving to having powerful anti-depressant qualities, which take effect more rapidly and effectively than currently available medication. For patients with depression, especially those resistant to conventional treatments, ketamine could provide the life-line so desperately needed. Nevertheless, any potential benefits for medicating depression with unadulterated Ketamine comes with the catch of unwanted dissociative, anaesthetic and addictive side-effects.

 

Fortunately, an international collaboration of scientists have now found a solution to the ketamine quandary. Panos Zanos, Todd Gould, and their teams at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and intramural programs of NIMH, NCATS, and NIA, managed to isolate a metabolite from Ketamine with rapid anti-depressant qualities. The mood-boosting metabolite, (2R,6R)-hydroxynorketamine, is produced as our bodies break down ketamine: yet crucially does not have the downside of ketamine’s undesirable psychoactive properties. Todd Gould is ‘cautiously optimistic’ that the study’s results from mice can be replicated in human trials. Hopefully, the newly-discovered metabolite will be proved to truly be a ‘miracle’ medication for depression – sans side-effects.