Scientists at the University of Bath have developed a new type of antidepressant that could be developed as an alternative to SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) according to a new report published in the British Journal of Pharmacology.
Although around one in six adults will experience depression in their lifetimes, SSRIs only work in around fifty per cent of patients. The new compound – known as BU10119 – has shown ‘significant potential’ after studies in mice.
Unlike SSRIs which target the serotonin system in the brain, BU10119 works by blocking receptors called kappa opioid receptors. Blocking these receptors has been shown to have anti-depressant like effects in mice.
In a series of laboratory trials, mice given BU10119 demonstrated behaviours consistent with providing antidepressant-like effects.
Sarah Bailey, the study’s lead author, said: ‘I’m really quite excited by the potential of this compound. Developing new medicines is why I got into pharmacology and, in 20 years of research, this is the closest I have come to a new compound that might translate towards the clinic. It’s promising, but that said, we are still at an early stage, these experiments are in mice and further research is still required for example to establish safety.’
‘SSRIs can work very well for some patients, but we know they don’t work for everyone which is one reason why developing new antidepressant and anti-anxiety drugs could be really beneficial.’
The researchers were inspired to develop the compound after previous University of Bath research showed that a combination of two existing drugs, buprenorphine and naltrexone, had potential as an antidepressant. BU10119 combines the effects of this combination in one drug.
Stephen Husbands, head of Medicinal Chemistry at the university said: ‘This research builds on our previous work which showed that combining buprenorphine and naltrexone can give antidepressant effects in mice. By combining the effects of both drugs in one molecule we hope that a safe and effective drug will eventually be the outcome. BU10119 is part of a series of compounds now licensed to, and under development with, Orexigen Therapeutics.’