Alzheimer's, Dementia & Mental Health
Nasal Spray Delivers New Depression Treatment to
Right Spot in Brain
20 million Americans, mostly women, suffer from
March 24, 2014 A nose spray that uses new
technology to deliver drugs directly to the brain is being hailed by
researchers at Canadas largest mental health and teaching hospital and
the University of Toronto as a promising new way to treat depression.
The spray delivers a peptide (compound made of two
or amino acids) to treat depression.
"This study marks the first time a peptide
treatment has been delivered through nasal passageways to treat
depression," says Dr. Fang Liu, Professor in the University of Toronto's
Department of Psychiatry, who led the study with colleagues from the
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).
The peptide treatment interferes with the binding
of two dopamine receptors the D1 and D2 receptor complex. Dr. Liu's
team had found that this binding was higher in the brains of people with
major depression. Disrupting the binding led to the anti-depressant
The peptide is an entirely new approach to treating
depression, which has previously relied on medications that primarily
block serotonin or norepinephrine transporters.
About Depression (MedlinePlus)
Depression is a
serious medical illness that involves the brain. It's more than
just a feeling of being "down in the dumps" or "blue" for a few
days. If you are one of the more than 20 million people in the
United States who have depression, the feelings do not go away.
They persist and interfere with your everyday life. Symptoms can
Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
Change in weight
Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
Feelings of worthlessness
Thoughts of death or
Depression is a
disorder of the brain. There are a variety of causes, including
genetic, environmental, psychological, and biochemical factors.
Depression usually starts between the ages of 15 and 30, and is
much more common in women. Women can also get
after the birth of a baby. Some people get
seasonal affective disorder
in the winter. Depression is one part of
There are effective
treatments for depression, including
and talk therapy. Most people do best by using both.
experience depression more often than men. Biological, life
cycle, and hormonal factors that are unique to women may be
linked to women's higher depression rate. Women with depression
typically have symptoms of sadness, worthlessness, and guilt.
with depression are more likely to be very tired, irritable, and
sometimes even angry. They may lose interest in work or
activities they once enjoyed, and have sleep problems.
with depression may have less obvious symptoms, or they may be
less likely to admit to feelings of sadness or grief. They also
are more likely to have medical conditions like heart disease or
stroke, which may cause or contribute to depression. Certain
medications also can have side effects that contribute to
National Institute of Mental Health
Depression, the most common form of mental illness,
is one of the leading causes of disability globally. More than 50 per
cent of people living with depression do not respond to first-line
The technology for the nose-to-brain delivery was
developed by the U.S. company Impel NeuroPharma. The company announced
last March a successful trial with their Precision Olfactory Delivery
(POD) technology that was seen as opening the door for central nervous
system (CNS) drugs to be delivered directly to the human brain, allowing
potential treatments for complex neurological conditions.
The study is published online in
In a previous study published in Nature Medicine
in 2010, Dr. Liu developed a protein peptide that provided a highly
targeted approach to treating depression that she hopes will have
minimal side effects. The peptide was just as effective in relieving
symptoms when compared to a conventional antidepressant in animal
However, the peptide had to be injected into the
brain. Taken orally, it would not cross the blood-brain barrier in
"Clinically, we needed to find a non-invasive,
convenient method to deliver this peptide treatment," says Dr. Liu,
Senior Scientist in the Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute
at CAMH. With the support of a Proof of Principle grant from the
Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Dr. Liu's team was able
to further explore novel delivery methods.
The Impel NeuroPharma system was shown to deliver
the peptide to the correct part of the brain. It also relieved
depression-like symptoms in animals.
"This research brings us one step closer to
clinical trials," says Dr. Liu. In ongoing lab research, her team is
experimenting to determine if they can make the peptide break down more
slowly, and travel more quickly in the brain, to improve its
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)
is Canada's largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital, and
one of the world's leading research centers in its field. CAMH combines
clinical care, research, education, policy development and health
promotion to help transform the lives of people affected by mental
health and addiction issues. CAMH is fully affiliated with the
University of Toronto, and is a Pan American Health Organization/World
Health Organization Collaborating Centre. For more information, please
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)
is the Government of Canada's health research investment agency.
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