The World Health Organization predicts that unipolar depression will be the second most prevalent cause of illness-induced disability by 2020. Current treatments are of limited efficacy in a considerable proportion of patients, and are associated with troublesome side effects.
The adult mammalian brain contains small populations of neural stem cells in restricted areas of the brain that are capable of dividing and differentiating into neurons. This process of neurogenesis occurs in the hippocampus. Recently, it has been proposed that adult hippocampal neurogenesis plays a role in the etiology of major depression.
In the Neuroscience department (Thuret
), in collaboration with Dr. Carmine Pariante
from the Psychological Medicine department, we have developed an in vitro tool to further the understanding of the cellular and molecular biology underlying depression and the mode of action of antidepressants, using human hippocampal stem cells. We aim to identify new molecular and cellular targets regulating adult hippocampal neurogenesis in order to develop more effective antidepressant treatments and finally to improve outcome.