In what could be a major breakthrough in the treatment of depression, scientists have discovered that compounds found in a certain South African species of flowers snowdrops and daffodils affect parts of the brain involved in the illness. The question is, which ones?

If you enjoy gracing your homes with vases filled with snowdrops and daffodils, then you’re in luck. Scientists at the University of Copenhagen found that compounds in these flowers were able to pass through the blood brain barrier — a largely impenetrable collection of blood vessels that protect the brain — when many others were not.

“The blood vessels of the brain are impenetrable for most compounds, one reason being the very active transporter proteins,” said lead researcher Professor Birger Brodin. “So it is of great interest to find compounds that manage to ‘trick’ this line of defense.”

“Our results are promising, and several of the chemical compounds studied should therefore be tested further as candidates for long-term drug development,” he continued.

Still, Brodin noted, it could be several years before an antidepressant is actually created. “This is the first stage of a lengthy process, so it will take some time before we can determine which of the plant compounds can be used in further drug development.”

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