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Dr Sarah Bailey
Dr Sarah Bailey

Press Release - 15 May 2007

Project explores link between acne treatment and depression

A new £365,000 project is set to investigate how a drug used to treat severe acne may cause depression.

The project builds on work published last year by Dr Sarah Bailey and Dr Michelle Lane which showed that the drug Roaccutane caused depressive behaviour in mice.

Now researchers at the University of Bath are set to investigate exactly how the active molecules in the drug might cause depression.

They have already collected preliminary data which suggests that Roaccutane could target a neurotransmitter called serotonin which helps send messages between different nerve cells in the brain.

“Serotonin is already known to be involved in depression,” said Dr Sarah Bailey from the Department of Pharmacy & Pharmacology at the University of Bath.

“Anti-depressant drugs like Prozac are thought to work by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain.

“Low levels of serotonin are thought to be behind a range of disorders including depression, aggressiveness and anxiety.

“Our initial studies have suggested that cultured nerve cells may produce less serotonin in the presence of retinoids, the family of vitamin A-related medicines to which Roaccutane belongs.

“This could be a key mechanism that links retinoids to depressive behaviour.”

If successful, the project, which is funded by the Medical Research Council, will shed new light on how serotonin is regulated in the brain.

This may provide clues to alternative targets drugs, and reveal new uses for retinoids where targeting serotonin production is useful.

“There is already interest in using retinoids for conditions such as Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia,” said Dr Bailey.

“Understanding how this group of drugs acts on the brain is important for the refinement of existing treatments and the development of possible treatments in the future.”

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