Hopes For New Class Of Antidepressant Following Study Of How Ketamine Defeats Chronic Depression
Today, current evidence suggests that the pediatric anesthetic helps regenerate synaptic connections between brain cells damaged by stress and depression, according to a review of scientific research written by Yale School of Medicine researchers and published in the journal Science.
Ketamine works on an entirely different type of neurotransmitter system than current antidepressants, which can take months to improve symptoms of depression and do not work at all for one out of every three patients. Understanding how ketamine works in the brain could lead to the development of an entirely new class of antidepressants, offering relief for tens of millions of people suffering from chronic depression.
"The rapid therapeutic response of ketamine in treatment-resistant patients is the biggest breakthrough in depression research in a half century," said Ronald Duman, Elizabeth Mears and House Jameson Professor of Psychiatry and Professor of Neurobiology.
Duman and George K. Aghajanian, also professor of psychiatry at Yale, are co-authors of the review.
Understanding how ketamine works is crucial because of the drug's limitations. The improvement in symptoms, which are evident just hours after ketamine is administered, lasts only a week to 10 days. In large doses, ketamine can cause short-term symptoms of psychosis and is abused as the party drug "Special K."
In their research, Duman and others show that in a series of steps ketamine triggers release of neurotransmitter glutamate, which in turn stimulates growth of synapses. Research at Yale has shown that damage of these synaptic connections caused by chronic stress is rapidly reversed by a single dose of ketamine.
The original link between ketamine and relief of depression was made at the Connecticut Mental Health Center in New Haven by John Krystal, chair of the department of psychiatry at Yale, and Dennis Charney, now dean of Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, who helped launch clinical trials of ketamine while at the National Institute of Mental Health.
Efforts to develop drugs that replicate the effects of ketamine have produced some promising results, but they do not act as quickly as ketamine. Researchers are investigating alternatives they hope can duplicate the efficacy and rapid response of ketamine.
Source: EurekAlert!, the online, global news service operated by AAAS, the science society
Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:
Yale University. "Hopes For New Class Of Antidepressant Following Study Of How Ketamine Defeats Chronic Depression." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 8 Oct. 2012. Web.
30 May. 2016. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/251181.php>
Yale University. (2012, October 8). "Hopes For New Class Of Antidepressant Following Study Of How Ketamine Defeats Chronic Depression." Medical News Today. Retrieved from
Please note: If no author information is provided, the source is cited instead.
Contact our news editors
For any corrections of factual information, or to contact our editorial team, please see our contact page.
Copyright Medical News Today: Excluding email/sharing services explicitly offered on this website, material published on Medical News Today may not be reproduced, or distributed without the prior written permission of Medilexicon International Ltd. Please contact us for further details.