The protein molecule was found using the Diamond Light Source, which is the world’s most powerful x-ray machine.
Scientists have known for a long time that stress, anxiety and depression are controlled by chemicals released by the brain’s pituitary gland. Now they know that it is the ‘misery molecule’ (officially named CRF1) that triggers the release of these stress chemicals.
These molecules are found in the membranes of pituitary cells and process signals from the hypothalamus, which controls things like body temperature, hunger and moods. CRF1 then responds to these messages by releasing stress hormones to invoke a survival response.
Fiona Marshall, chief scientific officer at Heptares, said: “Stress related diseases such as depression and anxiety affect a quarter of adults each year, but what many people don’t realise is that these conditions are controlled by proteins in the brain, one of which is CRF1.”
It is hoped this new information will help drug developers design more effective treatments for mental health problems like stress, anxiety and depression.
The team managed to identify a ‘crevice’ in the brain which could be used to aim a CRF1 blocker at – thus preventing the release of stress hormones.
Ms Marshall said they will now use the same powerful x-ray machine to get a closer look at the molecules involved in type 2 diabetes. It is hoped this will lead to the development of an oral drug which can be used instead of injections.
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