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Israel is Becoming a Hotbed of Psychiatric Innovations

With more and more people being diagnosed with a form of mental illness, Israel is increasingly becoming a hotbed of innovations designed to improve the well-being of people with mental illnesses
Freud's couch, in the Freud Museum, London. (photo credit: CC-BY Konstantin Binder/Wikimedia)
Freud's couch, in the Freud Museum, London. (photo credit: CC-BY Konstantin Binder/Wikimedia)

With more and more people being diagnosed with a form of mental illness everyday, Israel is increasingly becoming a hotbed of innovations designed to improve the well-being of people with a diverse array of mental illnesses. Some of the notable Israeli innovations that could prove groundbreaking are designed to improve the lives of patients who’ve been diagnosed Bipolar Disorder and other forms of mental illness.

Israel21c showcased the smartphone app Lifegraph in their May 2016 article Virtual lifeline between psychiatrists and their patients. In the article Israel21c reports that the nifty app innovation materialized when:

“Tel Aviv University biomedical engineer Uri Nevo decided to create a smartphone-based solution for patients and their psychiatrists to continuously and unobtrusively monitor changes in behavior and address them before they get out of control.”

Lifegraph is intended to be a game-changer in efforts to prevent hospitalizations and re-hospitalizations of psychiatric patients by allowing their doctor to monitor the patient’s behavior alterations and tackle them before they lead to hospitalization.

Furthermore, what is arguably one of the most devastating and stigmatized mental illnesses that many psychiatric patients struggle to cope with is none other than Bipolar Disorder. No matter what type of bipolar disorder a patient suffers from, their highs and lows can be all too devastating. And much like many patients could soon reap the benefits of Israel’s innovative mental health breakthrough Lifegraph app, psychiatric patients who’ve been diagnosed with this mood disorder could soon owe their gratitude to Israeli researchers as well.

Bipolar depression sufferers may indeed find some relief from their troublesome feelings due to the development of a new drug designed to dramatically reduce feelings of depression and the risk of suicide in Bipolar patients. Israel21c reported in their September 2015 article Hope for people with bipolar depression

“Despite extensive evidence that 25 to 50 percent of those with bipolar depression attempt suicide and far too many succeed, there is currently no FDA-approved treatment for active suicidality in bipolar depression,” says Dr. Jonathan Javitt, a recent American immigrant to Israel and CEO of NeuroRx, a clinical-phase pharmaceutical company.”

The article went on to explain that NeuroRx, may have discovered a breakthrough in the fight to end suicide in bipolar patients:

“Early this summer, NeuroRx reported its first human efficacy data for a newly purposed class of drugs aimed at rapidly reducing symptoms of depression and suicidality in patients with bipolar disorder and maintaining that effect over time.”

NeuroRx has stated on their website’s overview of the treatment that their intention and approach for the investigational treatment starts with a single dose of the FDA-approved drug ketamine, followed by about 6 weeks of the patient taking daily oral Cyclurad.

NeuroRx’s website states their intentions for Cyclurad are to enhance the performance of ketamine:

“Cyclurad is designed to offer an oral, rapid-onset and sustained home-use therapy that can significantly extend ketamine’s proven anti-suicidal benefit and offer an improved side effect profile.”

Cyclurad is thought to work by acting on the NMDA and 5-HT2a, two key receptors in the brain. In contrast, traditional antidepressant drugs target the brain’s serotonin pathway. NMDA is a key receptor that bipolar treatments must effectively target given that it plays a crucial role in regulating the speed of a person’s thoughts. If the brain is experiencing too little NMDA activity, that patient is likely to experience unwanted hallucinations, ideation and even psychosis. Likewise, when the brain experiences too much NMDA activity the patient may also experience ideation accompanied by depression and a risk of suicide.

NeuroRx’s website further describes how Cyclurad treats these unpleasant symptoms that plague a multitude of bipolar patients:

“The NMDA receptor is a glutamate receptor found in nerve cells. It is critical to the memory function as it controls signaling from neuron to neuron.  NMDA also directly regulates a calcium ion channel that controls the rate of ideation (formation of new ideas) in the brain. D-cycloserine, one of the active ingredients in Cyclurad, targets the NMDA receptor and modulates NMDA activity, potentially fostering a normal pace of thought generation. Studies have demonstrated that administration of D-cycloserine triggers an antidepressant effect.”

Suicidality is a harsh reality for too many bipolar patients and their families. It should be clear to many physicians at this point in time that more earnest efforts should be made to find an effective treatment for suicidality in these patients; not merely effective treatments for manic episodes. NeuroRx has made this very clear on their website’s address of Acute Suicidal Crisis in Bipolar Depression:

“While there are well-accepted drug therapies for the manic phase of bipolar disease, there is no indicated or effective treatment for the treatment of acute suicidal crisis associated with the condition. In fact, SSRI-based antidepressants are now known to actually increase the risk of suicide and bear an FDA-mandated warning label identifying the potential to trigger suicide. Furthermore, pharmacological options are only effective in a subset of patients and typically require more than three weeks to show effect. Other treatments, such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), are physically and emotionally devastating and require extended hospitalization.”

With 67 percent of all suicides involving a bipolar patient, and three million Americans suffering from bipolar depression, it is evident that mental health professionals throughout the world should keep a watchful eye on the latest psychiatric innovations coming out of Israel.After all, imagining how many lives might be saved is an intriguing thought.

About the Author
Allison Barksdale is a senior convergence journalism major at Abilene Christian who has a heart for Israel and enjoys about Israel's numerous contributions in her spare time.
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