Major Depression Disorder (MDD) is a condition characterised by deep and ongoing feelings of profound sadness or despair.
There is an urgent need to find new tools that can predict the response to therapeutic treatment of psychiatric disorders. This is due to the fact that, unlike other medical specialties, no reliable biomarkers have yet been identified in psychiatry that can help doctors provide the correct diagnosis and monitor treatment response.
So far, DDM diagnosis is purely clinical, and although antidepressants are clearly effective in many cases, a high number of patients do nor respond to this type of treatment.
The MIND-ME project is based on two recent REVOLUTIONS in the medical field:
- The importance of intestinal microbiotics for health and the identification of circulating microparticles (MVs) released by all cells, which are important for communication between the tissues. Links between the intestinal microbiotics (in conditions defined as dysbiosis) and DDM have been documented in numerous studies in recent years, but how the microbes in our intestine communicate with the brain is still relatively unexplored. The hypothesis of this project is that in DDM the communication between intestine and brain is mediated by microvesicles (MVs) released directly by bacteria, or by intestinal cells in response to microbe stimuli.
- The MVs act as “small cellular shuttles”, which transport an information load (DNA, RNA and proteins) to targeted tissues that respond to transmitted stimuli, thus allowing communication between the cells. In fact, once they are in our blood circulation, they can travel very long distances within our body. The MVs are released not only from our cells but also from intestinal microbes, and could support the so-called INTESTINE-BRAIN axis.
Our experimental hypothesis is that in DDM, these microvescicles reach the brain and then activate biological mechanisms that lead to depression. The strength of our project lies in the study of MVs as new biomarkers (diagnostic or prognostic) for DDM and is made possible thanks to the use of next-generation tools, available at the research centre for autoimmune diseases and allergies (CAAD) at UPO. These tools will allow “multiomics” analyses (cytomic, transcriptome, proteomic and metabolics) of MVs in order to define them and study the network of biological integration.
This project is carried out at CAAD and involves both departments of the School of Medicine. It also receives invaluable assistance from the “Rita Levi Montalcini” Department of Neuroscience at the Università degli Studi of Turin, which will be responsible for the clinical study, recruiting 100 patients with DDM, and conducting follow-up for a year.