July 18, 2005
By Casey Lynch
Neuropharmaceutical drug discovery company BrainCells Inc of San Diego announced that it has closed a $17.7 million Series A financing from leading neurotech venture funds including Technology Partners, Oxford Bioscience Partners and NeuroVentures Capital.
Recent research from scientific founder Fred Gage and others has shown that treatment with antidepressants correlates with the appearance of new neurons in animal models. Many factors, including chronic stress, can lead to neuronal atrophy in an area of the brain called the hippocampus and it has been shown that hippocampal volume is reduced in depressed patients. Contrary to long held dogma, certain areas of the brain, including the hippocampus, can be stimulated to generate new neurons from resident neuronal stem cells and some believe that this neurogenesis may be the mechanism of action of drugs like Prozac.
While there is still some debate as to the causative link between neurogenesis and depression, BrainCells hopes that neurogenesis can be used as a marker to identify new antidepressants and mood disorder treatments. This would be a big step forward considering the current difficulty in preclinical drug discovery for these large market opportunities.
Also of note today, neurodevice company Cyberonics received FDA approval to use it's Vagus Nerve Stimulator on depression resistant patients.
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