Skip to main content
KBS_Icon_questionmark link-ico

Anti-inflammatory drugs' effect on depression

Scientists from King’s are part of a new consortium looking at whether existing anti-inflammatory drugs could be repurposed to provide fresh treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and depression.  It will be the largest study ever investigating inflammation in the brain.

Previous studies have indicated that the immune system ‘talks to the brain’ in some way and that inflammation in the body can cause depression.  The consortium,  led by Cambridge University and comprising seven UK institutions, has received £5 million funding from the Wellcome Trust to take this research further. Professors Carmine Pariante and Federico Turkheimer from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) are leading the project for King’s and will be responsible for the coordination and delivery of the PET component of the study. The imaging work done at King’s will determine whether depressed patients have increased inflammation in the brain, and a further experimental study will assess the possibility of inducing depression by increasing inflammation levels.

Professor Pariante said: “We have known for the last few years that patients with depression have changes measurable in the blood that indicate activation of the inflammatory system - a biological response which is predominantly directed to fight infection but also has an important role in regulating behaviour. The time is now ripe to further consolidate this line of research in order to discover how increased inflammation causes depression, and - mostly importantly - whether tackling inflammation can offer a cure to the many depressed patients that do not get better using current antidepressants.”

The study will be carried out in two stages with the first aiming to shed light on the precise relationship between immune-related markers in the blood and brain function. If the first stage is successful, the second stage will be ‘proof-of-concept’ medical trials on patients with appropriate immunological profiles. The facilities and expertise at King’s and the IoPPN will play an important part in the research at each stage.

“King’s has a really prominent role in this large research programme on depression, co-leading both the clinical and preclinical research streams and being responsible for coordinating one of the most innovative aspects of the study: the visualisation of inflammation in the brain of depressed patients,” said Professor Pariante. “Most studies until now have focussed on measuring inflammation in the blood, but this will be the largest study ever investigating inflammation in the brain and will use a variety of techniques, including PET and MRI, both in depressed patients and in experimental models of depression.”

For further information contact Tom Bragg, Press Officer at IoPPN, King’s College London, on +44(0)2078485377 or email