Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Worm study shows antidepressant may lengthen life

Worm study shows antidepressant may lengthen life - Yahoo! News
"An antidepressant may help worms live longer by tricking the brain into thinking the body is starving...The drug, called mianserin, extended the life span of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans by about 30 percent...Buck's team did a random search through 88,000 different drug compounds to see if any of them happened to make C. elegans live longer....Three other compounds, including another antidepressant, have similar effects, said Michael Petrascheck..."Weight gain and increased appetite seems to be one of the side effects. It is one of the reasons these are not such popular antidepressants,"...The drug with the strongest effect was mianserin, in a class of drugs known as tetracyclic antidepressants...The drug is used in Europe under several brand names, including Bolvidon, Norval and Tolvon but not usually in the United States. It can cause aplastic anemia and other effects on immune system cells...Buck's team found that in addition to interfering with serotonin in the worm, it also blocked receptors for another neurotransmitter, octopamine...They said some other research suggests that serotonin and octopamine may complement one another -- with serotonin signaling the presence of food and octopamine signaling starvation...Buck said it is possible that mianserin drug tips the balance in the direction of octopamine, tricking the brain into thinking it has been starved...Petrascheck said another antidepressant, mirtazapine, had similar effects. An antihistamine and migraine drug called cyproheptadine, as well as a compound not used in people called methiothepin also affected serotonin and extended worm life span...They tested other popular antidepressants that affect serotonin and found they did not make the worms live longer.He is worried that people will rush to take the drugs in the hope of living longer."It is a stretch from a worm to a human being," Petrascheck said."

Here's a question. Say you take mianserin and become obese. Do you still live a longer life? Or does the obesity and all the negative effects of that cancel out the potential life extension of the drug? Did the worms become obese? Gain weight?

By the way this is the first wire service article I've ever seen where c. elegans got more than an initial for its first name - Caenorhabditis elegans. Bravo Maggie Fox of Reuters! Although I understand the need for abbreviations in journalism especially with science articles, it's nice once in a while for science writers to spell it out.

88,000 drug compounds! That is one hard working lab. I find it a bit depressing that with all those compounds, the best of the best can only muster 30% life extension in a worm. Oh well, let's hope it's a jumping off point.

And for those who are dying to know more about the red headed step child of neurotransmitters, octopamine, here's more at Wiki.

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