Protein Found in Blood May Reduce Depression

New research shows that a protein called GDF11 is linked with improving depressive symptoms and memory in mice.

Research has suggested that the expansion of GDF11, a protein in our blood, is favorable for olfactory perception and for generating new cells in the brains of older mice. The effects of GDF11 on the human brain have yet to be discovered.

New research from the Institut Pasteur, CNRS, and Inserm suggests that when inserting GDF11 protein into aged mice, their memory abilities are notably refined while diminishing behavioral troubles linked with depression. Adding GDF11 authorized older mice to regain prior behaviors in their younger years. The study was published in the journal Nature Aging on February 2, 2023.

The research team delved further into the study and used different aged mice with depression-like symptoms and in vitro neuronal cultures to scrutinize how GDF11 works. The team found that dispensing GDF11 allows an organic process of intracellular cleaning, or 'autophagy' in our brain, to rid of senescent cells. This means GDF11 protein concomitantly heightens cell turnover in our hippocampus, reinstating neuronal activity.

In humans, this can mean that the GDF11 protein can potentially diminish depressive symptoms in individuals. The team from Institut Pasteur, CNRS, and Inserm, along with scientists from McMaster University, studied the protein in the blood serum of younger patients with major depressive disorder. They noticed that GDF11 protein levels were notably inferior compared to others. They also discovered that depending on the severity of depressive symptoms, the level of GDF11 also differed.

"This work provides clinical evidence linking low blood levels of GDF11 to mood disorders in patients with depression," says a researcher in the Institut Pasteur's Perception and Memory Unit Lida Katsimpardi, who is linked with Inserm at the Institut Necker-Enfants Malades, and also the co-last author of the study.

She concludes: "In the future, this molecule could be used as a biomarker to diagnose depressive episodes. It could also serve as a therapeutic molecule for the treatment of cognitive and affective disorders.”

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