Team:The Webb Schools/Description


Introduction to Depression
    Depression, a common mood disorder in society, often remains untreated and undiagnosed[1]. It is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness, emptiness, irritable mood, and multiple cognitive changes[2]. For those suffering from depression, every day, they are in extremely low moods and life stress. In certain severe cases, they even develop thoughts of self-harm and suicide. As the social pressure increases, depression is becoming more and more prevalent. The lifetime prevalence of depression is from 20% to 25% in women and 7% to 12% in men[3]. Due to the ongoing pandemic, mental health issues became more prevalent. During COVID-19, the prevalence of depression is around 25%, 7 times higher than prevalence in 2007[4]. However, only 65% of people with depression are receiving treatment either from medication or health professionals[5]. The choice of treatment for depression is also limited. The two major treatments are medication and therapy. One of the common medications is selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). While SSRIs are effective with severe major depressive disorders, they show little to no effect in mild depression[6]. Therapy also proposes limitations with few therapists and lack of resources.
    Depression is usually involved with inflammation, a system that also regulates oxidative stress, which leads to the production of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS)[7]. At high levels, ROS damages DNA, proteins, lipids, and other macromolecules, leading to certain pathologies such as neurodegenerative disorders[8]. Oxidative stress plays a role in depression as people with depression usually show a high level of malondialdehyde (MDA), an indicator of oxidative stress[9].
    2020 is an unusual year; the dramatic change caused by the COVID‐19 epidemic has resulted in a sharp increase in the prevalence of depression among the population in China, compared to 2019[10]. Our team members had also suffered certain levels of mental stress under the quarantine and restriction policies. Having experienced mental pressures ourselves, we decided to help people who suffered from depression to relieve their stress and return to their normal life.
    For years, depression has been a widespread and serious mental health issue. The situation has become even more serious during the COVID-19 pandemic. The huge number of affected victims also inspired us to set our topic on depression and to help as many people as possible.
    Another reason we chose this topic is that some discoveries regarding the pathological mechanisms of depression were made in the last few years. The more cutting-edge research indicates a rise in MDA, monoamine oxidases (MAO) and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) in the serum of a depressed patient which might cause greater amounts of oxidative stress[11]. Thus, this pathological feature of depression could become a potential target point to the treatment of depression. Since similar kinds of medicines have not yet been developed, we decided to be the pioneer of this field and set up our own genetic project.
    With these inspirations in mind, we had set our topic on the treatment and prevention of depression through relieving the cellular process of oxidative stress. Like what’s in the poem The Broken Wings:
    Stay by my side as I learn how to glide
    Help me one step at a time, so we can finally fly
    We are willing to use our resources and knowledge to improve this situation, to become a lighthouse in the dreary nights, and to help more people and give them a bright new future.
Our Project
    Our team worked in the hope of solving this problem using synthetic biology. In our project, we aim to reduce the amount of MDA in the body in order to alleviate depression by reducing oxidative stress through the efeB, a peroxidase. EfeB shows to have an effect against ROS in the body, which could further reduce the amount of MAD[12]. By transforming the efeB gene into E. coli, we hope to develop a new supplement that helps to reduce cellular damages caused by ROS and alleviate pains of depression.
[1] McCarter T. (2008). Depression overview. American health & drug benefits, 1(3), 44–51.
[2] Chand SP, Arif H. Depression. [Updated 2020 Nov 18]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from:
[3] Wang, J., Wu, X., Lai, W., Long, E., Zhang, X., Li, W., Zhu, Y., Chen, C., Zhong, X., Liu, Z., Wang, D., & Lin, H. (2017). Prevalence of depression and depressive symptoms among outpatients: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ open, 7(8), e017173.
[4] Bueno-Notivol, J., Gracia-García, P., Olaya, B., Lasheras, I., López-Antón, R., & Santabárbara, J. (2021, January 1). Prevalence of depression during the COVID-19 outbreak: A meta-analysis of community-based studies. International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology. DOI: 10.1016/j.ijchp.2020.07.007.
[5] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). (n.d.). Major Depression. National Institute of Mental Health.
[6] Ferguson, J. M. (2001, February). SSRI Antidepressant Medications: Adverse Effects and Tolerability. Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry. Doi: 10.4088/pcc.v03n0105
[7] Jiménez-Fernández, S., Gurpegui, M., Dí¬az-Atienza, F., Pérez-Costillas, L., Gerstenberg, M., & Correll, C. U. (2021, March 1). Comparison of ODD vs Healthy Controls.
[8] Rowe, L. A., Degtyareva, N., & Doetsch, P. W. (2008). DNA damage-induced reactive oxygen species (ROS) stress response in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Free radical biology & medicine, 45(8), 1167–1177.
[9] Jiménez-Fernández, S., Gurpegui, M., Díaz-Atienza, F., Pérez-Costillas, L., Gerstenberg, M., & Correll, C. U. (2015). Oxidative stress and antioxidant parameters in patients with major depressive disorder compared to healthy controls before and after antidepressant treatment: results from a meta-analysis. The Journal of clinical psychiatry, 76(12), 1658–1667.
[10] Li, J., Yang, Z., Qiu, H., Wang, Y., Jian, L., Ji, J., & Li, K. (2020). Anxiety and depression among general population in China at the peak of the COVID-19 epidemic. World psychiatry : official journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), 19(2), 249–250.
[11] Vaváková, M., Ďuračková, Z., & Trebatická, J. (2015, May 20). Markers of Oxidative Stress and Neuroprogression in Depression Disorder. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity.
[12] Wang Y;Li H;Li T;He H;Du X;Zhang X;Kong J; (n.d.). Cytoprotective effect of Streptococcus thermophilus against oxidative stress mediated by a novel peroxidase (EfeB). Journal of dairy science. DOI: 10.3168/jds.2018-14601