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Peripheral immune cells and Depression

Published: 15 Jan 2014

New research has revealed that immune cells outside of the brain may play a role in the likelihood of an individual developing depression.

Led by Dr Georgia Hodes at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, the animal model looked at the circulation of a pro-inflammatory immune chemical called interleukin-6 and its effects on behaviours that were symptomatic of depression.

Presented at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP) Annual Meeting, the findings revealed that subjects that showed increased propensity for depressive behaviours in fact recorded higher levels of interleukin-6 in circulation.

This has led scientists to conclude that immune factors outside of the brain could play a role in the risk factor of an individual developing the condition, with Dr Hodes explaining: "These studies represent a new way of thinking about diagnosing and treating depression as an inflammatory illness in the body rather than the brain."

While more studies are now needed, it is hoped that if this trend is ascertained in humans, this may lead to new and improved ways to treat depression.

Recent news concerning the condition has seen Scotland make a concerted effort to raise awareness and promote understanding of it, by combating the stigma surrounding the mental illness and encouraging people struggling as a result of it to take comfort and seek help.

Mental health charity SANE, sponsored by property group Ryden, have brought their Black Dog campaign to Edinburgh. That is, a statue of just that - a black dog, which has long been used as a metaphor for depression - has been erected in Edinburgh's Princes Street, near to the Wellington Statue.

Each of the dogs placed around the UK wears a coat, which has been designed either by a specific celebrity or artist, or even by a member of the public, with Angus' - the Scottish dog's - coat created by competition winner Maggie Keppie.

Marjorie Wallace, SANE’s chief executive, commented on the venture: "We need to take mental illness out of the shadows and talk about it openly. The sculptures are powerful symbols of painful inner feelings that can be difficult to communicate, and we hope that people will find the Black Dog liberating."

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