Antidepressants Could Ease Cystic Fibrosis

Armen Hareyan's picture

Antidepressants may ease symptoms of cystic fibrosis patients with lung infection.

Researchers from University of Duisburg-Essen in western Germany conducted a study showing that widely used amitriptyline drugs, such as Elavil, Endep, and Vanatrip can prevent lung infection, but can't block it.

Cystic fibrosis is a disease affecting about 80000 people in US and northern Europe. These patients suffer from chronic lung infections and have lowered life expectancy. There is no blocking treatment for this disease. The disease initially damages lung cells and by the pick of it patients need lung transplants.


Cystic fibrosis is believed to produce thick mucous inside lung helping bacteria like Pseudomonas aeruginosa to develop easily.

This new research suggests a totally new mechanism of how cystic fibrosis develops. Scientists believe that a certain genetic lowers cell acidity. This lowers the function of two body chemicals initially aimed at controlling ceramide fat levels. Both higher and lower levels of ceramide are dangerous for immune system.

In this case of cystic fibrosis ceramide levels are too high and this destroys lung cells, leads to increased inflammation, makes it easier for bacteria to develop.

Study testes the hypothesis in lab mice. The mice were genetically mutated to develop cystic fibrosis. When the mice aged they showed higher levels of ceramide, inflammation, and infection. The mice were given common antidepressant drugs. Mice became healthier, they had fat levels lowered, and infection less intensive.

Further research needs to be conducted to find out best doses for amitriptyline drug use to balance the levels of ceramide fats. This study doesn't include human trials, so further trials are needed to find out if the mechanism works in human. However, the research suggests that the drugs can only ease fibrosis ceramide. Cutting fats is unable to stop the disease and its development.