Italian study discovers the “stress protein”: young people are at risk

Reduced levels of this protein can increase levels of anxiety and stress, leading to depression. This is mainly linked to juvenile traumas and anxiety-producing contexts

Francesco Palma

Can a protein affect our stress levels? Yes, according to a study by the Reference Center for Behavioral Sciences and Mental Health of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS). The study, published in Translational Psychiatryattested that low levels of this protein are related to an increased risk of problems related to stress, anxiety and depression. The protein in question is the MECP2or Methyl-CpG binding protein 2. In many mental disorders originating from stress this protein is altered, in addition to the fact that some previous studies had already suggested a link between MECP2 and the first episodes of stress in a person.

I study

The researchers analyzed the presence of this protein in 63 clinically healthy people, noting the existence of one connection between reduced MECP2 levels and maladaptive outcomes – such as anxiety and depression – adverse childhood experiences. We therefore start from afar: “Growing up in an adverse environment is significantly correlated to higher levels of depressive symptoms and anxious traits, reaffirming the existence of a link between exposure to early adversity and lasting vulnerability to stressors” reads the study. These results, therefore, suggest a specific involvement of the person from an early age, especially for women, according to the data collected. The MECP2 protein is in fact essential for the functioning of nerve cellsand is already known to scholars because “some mutations of the gene that encodes it are the main cause of Rett syndromea rare and very serious neurological disease” reads the note from the Istituto Superiore di Sanità.

The interventions

A study of this type opens up a number of important considerations. In particular, the need to intervene immediately in contexts that can fuel exposure to stress on the part of young people is further confirmed: “According to the World Health Organization, one in 8 people worldwide suffer from mental disorders such as anxiety, mood disorders or disorders related to traumatic and stressful events. Access to treatment is limited and, often, those who do not receive assistance develop significant disabilities and meet premature death due to otherwise preventable physical conditions or suicide” the ISS said in a statement. This study represents the first step in a series of researches aimed at deepening the correlation between MECP2 protein and stress levels, in order to be able to think of personalized preventive interventions based on the patient.

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Italian study discovers the “stress protein”: young people are at risk

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