Sick for science: experimental endotoxemia as a translational tool to develop and test new therapies for inflammation-associated depression

Mol Psychiatry. 2021 Aug;26(8):3672-3683. doi: 10.1038/s41380-020-00869-2. Epub 2020 Sep 1.


Depression is one of the global leading causes of disability, but treatments remain limited and classical antidepressants were found to be ineffective in a substantial proportion of patients. Thus, novel effective therapies for the treatment of depression are urgently needed. Given the emerging role of inflammation in the etiology and pathophysiology of affective disorders, we herein illustrate how experimental endotoxemia, a translational model of systemic inflammation, could be used as a tool to develop and test new therapeutic options against depression. Our concept is based on the striking overlap of inflammatory, neural, and affective characteristics in patients with inflammation-associated depression and in endotoxin-challenged healthy subjects. Experimental administration of endotoxin in healthy volunteers is safe, well-tolerated, and without known long-term health risks. It offers a highly standardized translational approach to characterize potential targets of therapies against inflammation-associated depression, as well as to identify characteristics of patients that would benefit from these interventions, and, therefore, could contribute to improve personalization of treatment and to increase the overall rate of responders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Depression / drug therapy
  • Endotoxemia* / drug therapy
  • Endotoxins
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / drug therapy


  • Endotoxins