Researchers have developed a biosensor capable of monitoring serotonin, a chemical messenger responsible for maintaining mood balance, in real-time. Because low levels of serotonin can make people suffer from depression and drug addiction, the biosensor can be effectively used for the self-diagnosis and management of depression.
Serotonin is a type of neurotransmitter secreted by a neuron to affect another cell by transmitting related information. People suffering from depression mostly experience a decrease in signal or confusion before the neurotransmitter is transmitted to the next nerve. Serotonin is used in antidepressants and anxiety disorders as it makes them feel happy and reduces anxiety. It greatly affects their appetite and sleep cycles.
Doctors have used a method of mass analysis in blood samples when measuring serotonin levels, requiring a lot of time to analyze, professional equipment and manpower. It's been difficult for patients to measure the level of serotonin on their own.
A research team led by Kwon Oh-seok, a senior researcher at the Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology (KRIBB)'s infectious disease research center, has created a bio-probe that selectively responds to serotonin and combined it with highly conductive nanofibers to develop the biosensor.
The concentration of serotonin in the body can be monitored in real-time by checking the electrical signal generated by the sensor as it reacts with serotonin. "We will be able to observe not only the effect of serotonin on our body function but also the amount of change in secretion to external harmful stimuli," Kwon said in a statement on August 18.
In 2014, Victoria University psychology researcher Sarah Bradbury found that levels of serotonin can lead to drug addiction. Once drug use escalated and became frequent, the anti-addiction effect of serotonin decreased.