Brain disease

Looking at ketamine, the short-term wonder antidepressant

Illustration of bottle of antidepressant drug Ketamine with a sad face turning into a happy face
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

A key to preventing depression relapse could be figuring out how to maintain the dendritic spines in the neurons, according to a study published on Thursday in Science that examined an antidepressant that's getting a lot of buzz called ketamine.

Why it matters: Depression affects nearly 20% of Americans — 80% of whom will endure a relapse after remission and 30% of whom will have treatment-resistant depression (TRD). Ketamine has been lauded for alleviating TRD in an amazingly short amount of time — but the side effects are quite serious, no one knows quite how it works, and the positive effect doesn't last long.

Despite recent drug fails, there's hope for Alzheimer's diagnostics

A man records the 2-mile Walk to End Alzheimer's finish in Huntington Beach on Saturday, October 6, 2018.
A man records the 2-mile Walk to End Alzheimer's finish in Huntington Beach on Saturday, October 6, 2018. Photo: Mindy Schauer/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images

Scientists are seeking early diagnostics for Alzheimer's that could predict who is likely to develop the disease before noticeable symptoms materialize. In recent months, a large study was published showing that certain PET scans can lead to more accurate diagnoses, while other researchers are looking for disease biomarkers that may be evident in the eye, spinal fluid or the blood.

Why it matters: Alzheimer's, which is expected to affect 14 million Americans by 2060, starts decades before outward signs are indicated. While high-profile drug treatment trial failures, which were aimed at halting the degenerative disease, have occurred recently, scientists believe there are steps people can take that may help delay memory loss or alleviate other symptoms — and catching Alzheimer's early may be especially beneficial.