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Scientists at Lobachevsky University have started researching the effects of 5-HT4 and 5-HT7 receptors of serotonin, or the 'happiness' hormone, on nerve cells damaged by severe forms of depression in humans.

Researchers of the UNN Institute of Biology and Biomedicine are planning to reveal the hitherto unknown molecular mechanisms of the effect of serotonin receptors on nerve cell atrophy by simulating major depressive disorder in laboratory animals.

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is one of the most common mental disorders, affecting over 300 million people worldwide. In Russia, depression has been diagnosed in eight million people, which is almost 6% of the population. Depression and anxiety are increasingly common in the majority of patients suffering from the novel coronavirus COVID-19 infection. Clinical depression is one of the most costly illnesses, requiring 523.3 billion roubles (or 1.26% of GDP) to treat this condition in Russia.

Severe forms of depression are characterised not only by emotional but also by cognitive impairment: attention is disrupted, memory is impaired, work performance and quality of life are adversely affected. Numerous studies have shown that these disorders are associated with severe atrophy of the nerve cell outgrowths and changes in the brain cells.

"Revealing molecular mechanisms of the influence of different types of serotonin receptors on the development of abnormalities in morphology and functioning of neurons and glia cells in the brain in severe forms of depression, and their role in memory and learning formation under normal and pathological conditions will open new therapeutic targets for depression treatment," said Associate Professor Elena Mitroshina, Senior Researcher at Lobachevsky University.

Research at the UNN Institute of Biology and Biomedicine will be carried out under a grant from the Russian Science Foundation with the funding amounting to 21 million roubles until 2024.