Older adults with major depressive disorder (MDD) do not have significantly different levels of plasma epidermal growth factor (EGF) or fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF-2) than healthy older adults, according to results published in Psychiatry Research.1

The study included older adults with MDD (n=89) and healthy controls (n=51). All participants underwent a comprehensive psychiatric assessment, and the diagnosis of MDD was based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. The researchers used the Mattis Dementia Rating Scale to evaluate cognitive performance, and they measured EGF and FGF-2 by using a multiplex immunoassay with the LUMINEX platform.

The researchers did not find any significant differences in plasma levels of EGF (z =−.873; P =.38) or FGF-2 (z =−.792; P =.42) between the MDD group and the healthy control group. There was no significant correlation between plasma levels of EGF or FGF-2 and Mattis Dementia Rating Scale total or individual scores for either the MDD or healthy control group.

In the MDD group, 65% (n=64) of participants were receiving antidepressant medications for depression. However, antidepressant use did not have a significant impact on plasma levels of EGF (z =−0.483; P =.629) or FGF-2 (z =−.156; P =.876).

The majority of those with MDD in this study were women, which was noted as a limitation because the level of EGF may be affected by hormonal changes.2 In addition, the sample size may have been underpowered to find significant differences in EGF and FGF-2 level in late-life depression. Finally, the researchers did not assess subtypes of depression because of the limited samples recruited.

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“Further studies with larger samples are needed to determine whether EGF and FGF-2 might be useful pathophysiological biological indicators of depression, especially in elderly,” concluded the researchers.


  1. Wu HE, Teixeira AL, Barroso L, et al. Epidermal growth factor and fibroblast growth factor-2 circulating levels in elderly with major depressive disorder. Psychiatry Res. 2019;272:141-143.
  2. Sohrabji F, Lewis DK. Estrogen-BDNF interactions: implications for neurodegenerative diseases. Front Neuroendocrinol. 2006;27(4):404-414.