The future of brain research
Press release issued: 3 December 2007
A proposal for a cutting-edge brain research programme, that aims to develop new methods for the treatment of brain disorders such as depression and schizophrenia will be announced this week [5 December] at the instrumental life sciences conference, EuroBioForum.
David Nutt, Professor of Psychopharmacology at Bristol University will present his proposal, for the formation of an inter disciplinary European brain research programme, to key representatives from academia, industry and government at the conference in Lisbon, Portugal.
The programme will draw on a range of expertise and specialisms including chemistry, in vivo modelling and the latest developments in scanning technology, to examine the crucial role of neurotransmitters in the brain. Finding new methods to identify the release of neurotransmitters in the brain, such as endorphins, serotonin and noradrenaline, will be imperative to the development of more effective therapies.
Professor Nutt said: ”Every year depression affects 600 million people worldwide, more than any other condition except heart disease. Of these, only approximately half make a full recovery given current drugs. This highlights the huge potential benefits of the proposed programme, but it is important to acknowledge that the scale of the task is great.
“For example, we don’t even know whether serotonin levels are high or low in depressed people. This is despite the fact that many current anti-depressant drugs, including Prozac, alter the uptake of serotonin by key receptors in the brain. This demonstrates that there is a lack of knowledge over how existing drugs work and until greater understanding is reached it will be very difficult to make further progress.”
Until now researchers have been deterred by the sheer extent of the problem in unravelling the complex links between multiple neurotransmitters and a range of conditions.
Professor Nutt added: “This is big science on the same level as the Human Genome Project or splitting the atom. It requires a huge harmonised effort, combining the forces of academia and the pharmaceutical industry. Until now neurological research has tended to be fragmented, with industry more concerned with improving existing therapies and determining correct combinations of drugs and dosage levels. The EuroBioForum conference will provide the platform for researchers to unite behind a common larger goal.
“I’m extremely pleased to have been invited to such an important event and delighted that for the first time a brain research programme has been shortlisted under this initiative.”
The EuroBioForum 2007 conference is being held in Lisbon, Portugal from 5-7 December.