Treating Metabolic Deficiencies Could Cure Depression

Patients treated for their metabolic deficiencies experienced improved symptoms and even remission.

Treating metabolic deficiencies in certain patients with treatment-resistant depression could greatly improve patient outcomes, a recent study found.

“What's really promising about these new findings is that they indicate that there may be physiological mechanisms underlying depression that we can use to improve the quality of life in patients with this disabling illness," said researcher David Lewis, MD.

Approximately 15% of 50 million American adults with depression are unable to manage their symptoms with antidepressants, psychotherapy, and other standard treatments, according to a study published by the American Journal of Psychiatry. Researchers in the study previously treated a patient with depression and a history of suicide attempts but were unable to relieve him of his symptoms.

This laid the groundwork for the current study. The researchers conducted a series of biochemical tests, and discovered that the patient had a cerebrospinal fluid deficiency in bipterin, which is a protein involved in synthesis of multiple neurotransmitters.

After treating the patient to correct this deficiency, he was able to find relief from his symptoms. In the current study, researchers explored their findings further in 33 patients with treatment-resistant depression and 16 control patients.

Researchers found that the metabolic deficiencies varied from patient to patient. However, they discovered that 64% of patients had a neurotransmitter metabolism deficiency, according to the study.

None of the control patients had this deficiency.

A majority of patients who received treatment to correct the deficiency improved depression symptoms. Some patients even were able to achieve complete remission, according to the study.

Researchers also stated that patients are continuously getting better as time progresses.

“It's really exciting that we now have another avenue to pursue for patients for whom our currently available treatments have failed. This is a potentially transformative finding for certain groups of people with depression,” said lead researcher Lisa Pan, MD.