Mice missing a specific protein from their brains react to stress differently. The genetically engineered mice develop an imbalance in a hormone involved in stress responses, and during stressful situations, they behave as if they are depressed. Genetic variations in the same protein may be a significant cause of human depression, according to researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
Their report will be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, appearing on-line at the journals website during the week of Dec. 27 to 31, 2004 and in an upcoming print issue. "A major obstacle to understanding depression has been finding what triggers its onset," says Maureen Boyle, predoctoral fellow and first author of the report. "We felt it was important to look at elements that regulate the bodys stress system."
In response to stress, the brain signals the adrenal gland to release hormones, including glucocorticoid, a hormone that preserves physiological equilibrium in many organs. Because proper levels of glucocorticoid are important for normal function, the brain closely monitors and regulates the hormone.
Jim Dryden | EurekAlert!
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