Marine algae as emerging therapeutic alternatives for depression: A review

Document Type : Review Article


1 Department of Anatomy, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Malaya, 50603 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

2 Training Management Division, Ministry of Health Malaysia, 62675 Putrajaya, Malaysia

3 Department of Anatomy, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Medical Center, Jalan Yaacob Latif, Bandar Tun Razak, 56000 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

4 Department of Biological Sciences, School of Medical and Life Sciences, Sunway University, 47500 Bandar Sunway, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia

5 School of Biosciences, Faculty of Health & Medical Sciences, Taylor’s University Lakeside Campus, 47500 Subang Jaya, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia

6 Neuromodulation Laboratory, School of Biomedical Sciences, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, 21 Sassoon Road, Pokfulam, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China


Depression is a complex heterogeneous brain disorder characterized by a range of symptoms, resulting in psychomotor and cognitive disabilities and suicidal thoughts. Its prevalence has reached an alarming level affecting millions of people globally. Despite advances in current pharmacological treatments, the heterogenicity of clinical response and incidences of adverse effects have shifted research focus to identification of new natural substances with minimal or no adverse effects as therapeutic alternatives. Marine algae-derived extracts and their constituents are considered potential sources of secondary metabolites with diverse beneficial effects. Marine algae with enormous health benefits are emerging as a natural source for discovering new alternative antidepressants. Its medicinal properties exhibited shielding efficacy against neuroinflammation, oxidative stress, and mitochondrial dysfunction, which are indicated to underlie the pathogenesis of many neurological disorders. Marine algae have been found to ameliorate depressive-like symptoms and behaviors in preclinical and clinical studies by restoring monoaminergic neurotransmission, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function, neuroplasticity, and continuous neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus via modulating brain-derived neurotrophic factors and antineuroinflammatory activity. Although antidepressant effects of marine algae have not been validated in comparison with currently available synthetic antidepressants, they have been reported to have effects on the pathophysiology of depression, thus suggesting their potential as novel antidepressants. In this review, we analyzed the currently available research on the potential benefits of marine algae on depression, including their effects on the pathophysiology of depression, potential clinical relevance of their antidepressant effects in preclinical and clinical studies, and the underlying mechanisms of these effects.


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