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31-08-2011 | Psychology | Article

VEGF levels increased in unipolar depression and bipolar mania


Free abstract

MedWire News: Patients with bipolar disorder (BD) and those with major depressive disorder (MDD) show elevated blood levels of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) relative to mentally healthy individuals, researchers have found.

Writing in the Journal of Affective Disorders, Yong-Ku Kim (Korea University, Seoul) and team explain that "the neurotrophic hypothesis suggests that mood disorders are associated with dysfunction of neuronal networks."

They add that VEGF is a neurotrophic factor that can increase the proliferation of neurons in the adult hippocampus and is involved in neuronal survival, neuroprotection, regeneration, growth, differentiation, and axonal outgrowth.

To investigate whether VEGF plasma levels are altered in mood disorder patients, the team studied 35 patients with current MDD, 35 patients with bipolar I disorder who had experienced a recent episode of mania, and 60 mentally healthy controls. All of the participants were aged between 19 and 45 years.

The mood disorder patients were either medication-naïve or medication-free for at least 4 weeks before enrolment, the researchers note.

Blood samples were collected from the participants between 7.00 and 8.00 am, after an overnight fast, and assessed for VEGF levels using an enzyme linked immunosorbent assay.

The researchers found that mean plasma VEGF levels were significantly higher in BD and MDD patients than in controls, at 199.82 and 163.28 versus 110.05 pg/ml, respectively.

The difference in VEGF levels between mood disorder patients and controls remained significant after accounting for body mass index and age. The difference in VEGF level between MDD and BD patients was not significant.

VEGF levels among the mood disorder patients were not correlated with scores on the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale or the Young Mania Rating Scale, the researchers note.

Kim and team conclude: "The major finding of this study was that both MDD and BD patients had significantly higher plasma levels of VEGF than healthy controls.

They add that the findings suggest "a neuroprotective role for VEGF" in mood disorder patients.

By Mark Cowen

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