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Mood swings may disappear with the pop of a pill if Penn and Princeton-based Wyeth Research Laboratories have their way.

The Penn School of Medicine's Center for Neurobiology and Behavior and Wyeth have combined forces to investigate new techniques for developing drugs to treat mood disorders.

As part of a $1.8 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, the two institutions will establish a National Cooperative Drug Discovery Group for the Treatment of Mood Disorders.

The NCDDG-MD group will be charged with developing new drugs based on recent neurological discoveries.

Recent research has demonstrated that neurogenesis -- the generation of new neurons -- can be stimulated by the presence of chemical growth factors and the use of mood-disorder treatment drugs.

"We recently got a grant to study the role of neurogenesis as a critical factor in the new development of antidepressant drugs," said Irwin Lucki, Penn's principal investigator and a Psychiatry professor at the School of Medicine.

Now, Lucki said, scientists are aware of two areas in the brain that can regenerate: the olfactory-bulb area, responsible for smell, and the hippocampus -- an area of the brain that is involved with mood disorders.

Changes related to mood disorders have been observed in the dentate gyrus, an area of the hippocampus.

Lucki said that the cells of the dentate gyrus are pertinent to the action of antidepressant drugs in resisting the effects of stress.

It is in this area that Penn and Wyeth will be focusing during the duration of the three-year grant.

Lucki said that this research will serve as a launch pad from which new drugs can be developed to treat mood disorders.

He is excited about this union.

"We are going to unite the expertise of scientists at academic centers with specific industrial centers to be able to develop new compounds," he said.

Lucki surmised that the pipeline for any new drug development would be about five years but that the research would spur on other new developments and findings.

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