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Major depressive disorder, often simply called depression, is a complex condition with a lifetime prevalence of approximately 20 per cent. Although the cause of this disorder has been linked to various sources, including brain dysfunction, the actual molecular mechanisms responsible for disease development, symptom presentation, and treatment response are unknown. In addition, a significant number of patients do not respond adequately to antidepressant therapy. Recent preclinical and clinical studies have provided some evidence that microRNAs (or miRNAs — small molecules that have been shown to coordinate a range of genes) may play a role in neuronal function and the disorder’s development and response to therapy. This is an emerging field and clinical studies examining the role of miRNAs in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with Major Depressive Disorder are scarce. Head of the Human Neurotransmitters Laboratory, Professor Gavin Lambert aims to examine the role of miRNAs in Major Depressive Disorder by undertaking clinical investigations in patients with this disorder prior to, and following, antidepressant therapy. He will also undertake laboratory studies to gain insight into the mechanism by which miRNAs influence gene and protein expression in Major Depressive Disorder. Understanding the role of miRNAs may provide an insight into predicting a patient’s response to therapy and lead to the development of new treatments for this debilitating disorder.

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