A new article highlights the importance of using animal models in the search for more effective antidepressant drugs.
Currently, antidepressants only work for two thirds of patients, and can cause unpleasant side-effects.
In the article, published by Understanding Animal Research (see video), scientists explained how animals play a key part in screening for potential new treatments.
“At the moment, there is no alternative to using animals in that research,” states Dr Sarah Bailey, Senior Lecturer of Pharmacy and Pharmacology of University of Bath.
“Obviously, an animal isn’t going to tell you it feels depressed or unhappy, but you do get changes in behaviour which are similar to humans suffering from depression,” said Professor Allan Young, of King’s College London.
These changes can be a loss of interest in food and sex, for example, which can be measured to an extent. However, there is one test that has shown the same results over and over again for all known antidepressants in humans.
Using the forced swim test - where mice or rats swim in a small tank of water - researchers can assess their behaviour under the influence of potential antidepressant treatments.
“It is the best model to test new potential antidepressant compounds,” explained Dr Sarah Bailey. Recently, Christina Dalla of Medical School of Athens and National Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece, also answered a question about the forced swim test during EARA’s #TransparencyThursday (see video, min 2:02).