Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

Health

Why Antidepressants Are So Slow to Act

New information about "lipid rafts."

By Mallory LocklearDecember 19, 2016 6:00 AM
DSC-F0217_13.jpg
Two protein receptors (yellow, red) float in a cell membrane’s lipid rafts (orange), which play a role in antidepressants’ delay. | Nicolle R. Fuller/Science Source

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

DSC-F0217_12.jpg
Igorstevanovic/Shutterstock

Millions of Americans are prescribed antidepressants each year, yet it typically takes weeks for patients to feel any effects. Researchers could never explain the peculiarity, but new work published in July offers a clue.

The study, from researchers at University of Illinois at Chicago, examined rat brain cells and focused on lipid rafts — an area of the cell membrane that specializes in organizing important molecules. Previous studies showed that, in depressed patients, lipid rafts sequester a protein involved in cell signaling, called GαS, keeping it from doing its job.

DSC-F0217_13.jpg
Two protein receptors (yellow, red) float in a cell membrane’s lipid rafts (orange), which play a role in antidepressants’ delay. | Nicolle R. Fuller/Science Source

The researchers administered an SSRI, a common type of antidepressant that’s thought to work by increasing the brain’s low serotonin levels. The new work shows the antidepressant appears to have other important effects. When administering SSRIs, the team saw that the drug first collected in the lipid rafts, and afterward, the critical GαS protein moved out of the rafts, freeing it up and making the protein more effective. This physical delay in the cells corresponded to the therapeutic delay of antidepressants.

Mark Rasenick, an author of the study and a physiologist at UIC, sees these findings as more than just an explanation for antidepressants’ lag time. He says he plans to use these findings to develop a test to help predict how patients will respond to an antidepressant.

2 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In