Ataxia UK and National Ataxia Foundation (USA) award ICVS researchers

Andreia Teixeira-Castro and Stéphanie Oliveira saw their investigation awarded, which seeks to test the use of an antidepressant as a potential treatment for Ataxias.

Andreia Castro’s project now funded by Ataxia UK and the Post-doctoral fellowship awarded by the National Ataxia Foundation (NAF) to Stéphanie Oliveira, aim to study whether treatment with a multimodal antidepressant can improve motor symptoms of Spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 (SCA3) in animal models. SCA3 is an inherited ataxia, a neurological condition that causes lack of movement coordination and balance, among other symptoms. This disease is caused by a change in the ATXN3 gene that makes the ataxin-3 protein to become sticky and clump together. These protein clumps are toxic to brain cells, and result in the symptoms of SCA3.

These researchers previously showed that prolonged treatment with an antidepressant called citalopram, which increases serotonin levels, improved motor symptoms of SCA3 in animal models of the condition. They also found that treatment with citalopram reduced the amount of toxic ataxin-3 protein in these animal models. This work showed that targeting the serotonin systems in the brain could be a successful treatment option for SCA3.

Given these promising results testing citalopram in SCA3 animal models, they will now investigate the effect of further increasing serotonin action in the brain by using a different antidepressant, called vortioxetine.

The researchers will compare the effect of citalopram and vortioxetine treatment on SCA3 mice. The results of this comparison will be used to plan clinical trials, and could also be tested in other ataxias in the future.