The most dramatic consequence of depression is suicide. However, depressed people who have committed suicide on purpose have one thing in common, according to a study. This is found in the cellular composition of their brain. Researchers have cited “astrocytic dysfunction” as one of the causes of suicide.
A reduced number of astrocytes in the brain
Often referred to as clinical depression, depression is a mental disorder in which the most serious consequence possible is suicide. According to a study by the French Academy of Medicine and published in 2014, 5 to 20% of depressed patients would commit suicide. In addition, the risk is three times greater in men than in women. The causes of depression are obviously multiple, but one of the latter has just been the subject of a study available in the journal Psychatry borders since February 4, 2021.
Researchers from the Douglas Mental Health University Institute at McGill University (Quebec) have indeed evoked the astrocytic dysfunction as one of the causes of depression. According to Naguib Mechawar, co-author of the study, many areas of the brain in adults with depression and who died by suicide had reduced amounts of astrocytes. However, astrocytes are cells supporting the optimal functioning of neurons of the brain. A 2017 study even suggested that these cells may be a centerpiece of our body clock.
It should be noted that these conclusions were made thanks to post-mortem analyzes. Naguib Mechawar then took the opportunity to praise the merits of tissue donation for scientific research. The latter makes it possible to better understand the cellular and molecular dysfunctions underlying brain disorders. By extension, tissue donation for research allows the development of better treatments.
Boost the production of astrocytes to prevent suicide
According to the researchers, the brain tissue that was analyzed came from two groups of patients. The first consisted of people who died brutally without any psychiatric disorder. The second consisted of patients who died by suicide due to clinical depression. Scientists said they counted the number of astrocytes in cells using a microscope. cross sections of the brain to estimate the number in each region.
You should know that today, no antidepressant has the role of directly target astrocytes. However, the McGill University study could pave the way for the development of suitable treatments. What’s more, the researchers are optimistic because the study revealed good news. While the patients in the two groups had different numbers of astrocytes, the structure of these cells was similar and therefore had not undergone any alteration. For scientists, the objective would therefore be to boost the production of new astrocytes in depressed patients.
The study in question has a limit, however. Indeed, the samples analyzed were all from male patients. The researchers indicated that in future research they will include samples from female patients.