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Researchers lift a corner of the veil of depression

Antwerp, Belgium and Ume, Sweden − About 1 in 10 Europeans has to contend with some form of depression during his or her life. But how people become depressed is still largely a mystery. With their recent research, scientists from the Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology (VIB) connected to the University of Antwerp in collaboration with scientists of the University of Ume in Sweden, are lifting a corner of the veil. Their studies indicate that the TPH2 protein is involved in the development of depression and manic depression.

Depression and manic depression
Depression is one of the most prevalent disorders in the Western world, and, according to the World Health Organization, it will even be the No. 1 disorder in 2020. Ten to 15 per cent of the population − from all levels of society − experience depression during their lifetime; and about 5% has to contend with manic depression. Despite the high socio-economic costs and mortality rate, the causes of these psychiatric disorders are not yet known. However, scientists are in agreement that the origin of depression can be attributed to a combination of hereditary and environmental factors such as stress.

The role of serotonin
The hormone serotonin plays an important role in our brain chemistry. The amount of serotonin in the brain has a large influence on our thinking, emotions and behavior. Because antidepressants affect the level of serotonin in the brain, it has long been suspected that serotonin plays a role in the development of psychiatric disorders. So, the amount of serotonin that you produce and keep under control appears to be crucial in the fight against (manic) depression. Because the TPH2 protein is instrumental in regulating the serotonin level, scientists suspect that TPH2 plays a role in the development of psychiatric disorders.

Genetic study
Ann Van Den Bogaert and her colleagues from the research group of
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Contact: Sooike Stoops
info@vib.be
329-244-6611
VIB, Flanders Interuniversity Institute of Biotechnology
5-Oct-2006


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