Researchers have discovered that a specific peptide (a long string of proteins) might be developed into a new type of antidepressant therapy, according to a release by the Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto.

The discovery was made by a team led by Fang Liu, PhD, a researcher at CAMH and the University of Toronto. Previously, Liu and her colleagues showed that people with depression are much more likely to have two types of dopamine receptors bound together in their brains, compared with non-depressed people, who have far fewer bound receptors.

In response to this finding, Liu’s team discovered a peptide that could unbind these two types of dopamine receptors, called D1 and D2, and also keep unbound receptors from binding together. When the peptide was given to depressed mice, their depressive symptoms were significantly reduced, and the peptide worked as well as traditional antidepressant drugs.

“We are hopeful that our research will lead to new options for treatment that might have reduced side effects for patients with the depression,” Liu stated.