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Those who struggle with depression often benefit from therapy-based treatment, such as cognitive therapy or other strategies that identify patterns in symptoms and address them. However, for some, the outcome is significantly improved with the combination of therapy and pharmacological treatment.

Estimates by experts show that as many as three to four percent of Americans will struggle with depression at some point during their lives. There is a great need to identify effective treatments for depression. While some respond well to existing medication and treatments, there are some patients for whom depression treatment is especially challenging.

The study, conducted by U.S. researchers, found that a particular hormone that operates as an anti-diabetic may also be an effective treatment for symptoms of depression. The study used animal models to prove that the hormone that influences diabetic symptoms may also treat depression.

The senior author of the paper, Xin-Yun Lu of the Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies, located at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, explained that the current offerings for the treatment of depression, including both selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors and tricyclics, also boosts the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The researchers examined the use of the hormone adiponectin. The hormone is produced by fat tissue and functions as a sensitizing agent to the action of insulin. Insulin lowers blood sugar and is a hormone.

The study’s findings show that adiponectin readings in plasma have been lowered when examined in a chronic social defeat stress model of depression, said Lu. This is correlated with the level of social aversion in a patient.

The animal models were repeatedly exposed to social defeat strain over a period of 14 days. In this exercise, the male mice were placed in a cage of an aggressive, unknown mouse for ten minutes. Each time, the new mouse was physically defeated.

Following the defeat, both mice were placed in one half of a cage, separated solely by a divider that only allowed for auditory and visual contact for a 24-hour time period. Each day the task was repeated, and plasma adiponectin levels were evaluated after the final social defeat session.

The results showed that the mice who were repeatedly defeated exhibited lower plasma adiponectin levels. The researchers believe that the findings show that patients with depression may benefit from treatment involving adiponectin, given its anti-diabetic quality.

Further research is necessary to determine whether the findings translate when applied to human participants. The use of adiponectin may introduce a promising new treatment strategy for addressing the symptoms of those with depression.

The findings are published in a recent issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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