Depression is a highly prevalent disorder that affects more than 300 million adults worldwide in 2015.
Depression also frequently coexists with many other conditions such as osteoporosis and one-third of the
Intensive Care Unit (ICU) survivors had depressive symptoms. Antidepressants have become the most commonly
prescribed drugs in the United States. In addition to the regular process, drug discovery and development (R&D)
for depression presents extra challenges because of the heterogeneity of the symptoms and various co-occurring
disorders. Botanical medicine with multi-functional nature has been proposed to be more effective, providing
rapid control of core and comorbid conditions of depression. With the technical advances in analytical instruments,
metabolomics is entering into a “new generation”. Next-generation metabolomics (NGM) has the capability
to comprehensively characterize drug-induced metabolic changes in the biological systems. NGM has demonstrated
great potential in all the stages of pharmaceutical R&D in the last 10 years. Albiflorin isolated from Peony
roots is a promising drug candidate with multi-target for depression and is currently under development by Beijing
Wonner Biotech. In this work, we summarized the common analytical platforms for NGM and its main applications
in drug R&D. We used albiflorin as an example to illustrate how NGM improves our understanding of
drug candidate actions and facilitates drug safety evaluation. Future directions on how to expand the use of NGM
for new antidepressant development in pharmaceutical industry were also discussed.
Keywords: Metabolomics, antidepressants, drug development and discovery, albiflorin, depression, next-generation metabolomics (NGM).
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