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1.  Future Directions for Pharmacotherapies for Treatment-resistant Bipolar Disorder 
Current Neuropharmacology  2015;13(5):656-662.
Current pharmacological treatments for bipolar disorder (BD) are limited and efficacy has historically been discovered through serendipity. There is now scope for new drug development, focused on the underlying biology of BD that is not targeted by current therapies. The need for novel treatments is urgent when considering treatment resistant BD, where current therapies have failed. While established drugs targeting the monoamine systems continue to be worthwhile, new biological targets including inflammatory and oxidative an nitrosative pathways, apoptotic and neurotrophic pathways, mitochondrial pathways, the N-methyl-Daspartate (NMDA)–receptor complex, the purinergic system, neuropeptide system, cholinergic system and melatonin pathways are all being identified as potential anchors for the discovery of new agents. Many agents are experimental and efficacy data is limited, however further investigation may provide a new line for drug discovery, previously stalled by lack of corporate interest.
PMCID: PMC4761635  PMID: 26467413
Bipolar disorder; inflammation; nitrosative stress; oxidative stress; pathways; pharmacotherapy; receptors; treatment targets
2.  Cognitive remission: a novel objective for the treatment of major depression? 
BMC Medicine  2016;14:9.
Cognitive dysfunction in major depressive disorder (MDD) encompasses several domains, including but not limited to executive function, verbal memory, and attention. Furthermore, cognitive dysfunction is a frequent residual manifestation in depression and may persist during the remitted phase. Cognitive deficits may also impede functional recovery, including workforce performance, in patients with MDD. The overarching aims of this opinion article are to critically evaluate the effects of available antidepressants as well as novel therapeutic targets on neurocognitive dysfunction in MDD.
Conventional antidepressant drugs mitigate cognitive dysfunction in some people with MDD. However, a significant proportion of MDD patients continue to experience significant cognitive impairment. Two multicenter randomized controlled trials (RCTs) reported that vortioxetine, a multimodal antidepressant, has significant precognitive effects in MDD unrelated to mood improvement. Lisdexamfetamine dimesylate was shown to alleviate executive dysfunction in an RCT of adults after full or partial remission of MDD. Preliminary evidence also indicates that erythropoietin may alleviate cognitive dysfunction in MDD. Several other novel agents may be repurposed as cognitive enhancers for MDD treatment, including minocycline, insulin, antidiabetic agents, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, S-adenosyl methionine, acetyl-L-carnitine, alpha lipoic acid, omega-3 fatty acids, melatonin, modafinil, galantamine, scopolamine, N-acetylcysteine, curcumin, statins, and coenzyme Q10.
The management of cognitive dysfunction remains an unmet need in the treatment of MDD. However, it is hoped that the development of novel therapeutic targets will contribute to ‘cognitive remission’, which may aid functional recovery in MDD.
PMCID: PMC4724131  PMID: 26801406
Antidepressants; Cognition; Cognitive enhancers; Erythropoietin; Lisdexamfetamine dimesylate; Major depression; Novel targets; Vortioxetine; Psychiatry
3.  Peripheral brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) as a biomarker in bipolar disorder: a meta-analysis of 52 studies 
BMC Medicine  2015;13:289.
The neurotrophic hypothesis postulates that mood disorders such as bipolar disorder (BD) are associated with a lower expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). However, its role in peripheral blood as a biomarker of disease activity and of stage for BD, transcending pathophysiology, is still disputed. In the last few years an increasing number of clinical studies assessing BDNF in serum and plasma have been published. Therefore, it is now possible to analyse the association between BDNF levels and the severity of affective symptoms in BD as well as the effects of acute drug treatment of mood episodes on BDNF levels.
We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of all studies on serum and plasma BDNF levels in bipolar disorder.
Through a series of meta-analyses including a total of 52 studies with 6,481 participants, we show that, compared to healthy controls, peripheral BDNF levels are reduced to the same extent in manic (Hedges’ g = −0.57, P = 0.010) and depressive (Hedges’ g = −0.93, P = 0.001) episodes, while BDNF levels are not significantly altered in euthymia. In meta-regression analyses, BDNF levels additionally negatively correlate with the severity of both manic and depressive symptoms. We found no evidence for a significant impact of illness duration on BDNF levels. In addition, in plasma, but not serum, peripheral BDNF levels increase after the successful treatment of an acute mania episode, but not of a depressive one.
In summary, our data suggest that peripheral BDNF levels, more clearly in plasma than in serum, is a potential biomarker of disease activity in BD, but not a biomarker of stage. We suggest that peripheral BDNF may, in future, be used as a part of a blood protein composite measure to assess disease activity in BD.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12916-015-0529-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4666054  PMID: 26621529
Biomarker; Bipolar disorder; Brain-derived neurotrophic factor; Meta-analysis
4.  Maintenance N-acetyl cysteine treatment for bipolar disorder: A double-blind randomized placebo controlled trial 
BMC Medicine  2012;10:91.
N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is a glutathione precursor that has been shown to have antidepressant efficacy in a placebo-controlled trial. The current study aimed to investigate the maintenance effects of NAC following eight weeks of open-label treatment for bipolar disorder.
The efficacy of a double blind randomized placebo controlled trial of 2 g/day NAC as adjunct maintenance treatment for bipolar disorder was examined. Participants (n = 149) had a Montgomery Asberg Depression Rating Score of ≥12 at trial entry and, after eight weeks of open-label NAC treatment, were randomized to adjunctive NAC or placebo, in addition to treatment as usual. Participants (primarily outpatients) were recruited through public and private services and through newspaper advertisements. Time to intervention for a mood episode was the primary endpoint of the study, and changes in mood symptoms, functionality and quality of life measures were secondary outcomes.
There was a substantial decrease in symptoms during the eight-week open-label NAC treatment phase. During the subsequent double-blind phase, there was minimal further change in outcome measures with scores remaining low. Consequently, from this low plateau, between-group differences did not emerge on recurrence, clinical functioning or quality of life measures.
There were no significant between-group differences in recurrence or symptomatic outcomes during the maintenance phase of the trial; however, these findings may be confounded by limitations.
Trial Registration
The trial was registered with the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN12607000074493).
PMCID: PMC3482580  PMID: 22891797
N-acetyl cysteine; depression; bipolar disorder; maintenance; mania; oxidative

Results 1-4 (4)