Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Viral gene therapy makes males more faithful and friendly

25.09.2001


Vole mates: gene makes males more receptive.
© L. Pitkow et al.


Spells and incantations step aside: scientists have found a genetic elixir of love. It makes males more faithful to females and more friendly to fellow males. It could also shed light on bonding disorders such as autism.

Larry Young of Emory University in Georgia and colleagues used a virus to deliver a gene straight to the part of voles’ brains responsible for rewards and addiction, the ventral pallidum. The gene made the animals’ brains more receptive to the hormone vasopressin1.

"Something about having more vasopressin receptors makes interacting with another individual more rewarding," says Young. The ventral pallidum, at the bottom front of vole and human brains, is believed to reinforce pleasurable experiences.



Male voles were placed in a cage with a female for 17 hours, then caged with that female and another similar female. Gene-treated voles much preferred the known female. Untreated voles, or those given the gene in a different brain region, showed no preference.

This is the first time a virus carrying a gene to the brain has changed a complex behaviour, says Stafford Lightman, a hormone specialist at Bristol University. "It’s quite remarkable, and almost frightening, that you can change bonding behaviour just by changing this one receptor," he says.

Young speculates that a dearth of vasopressin receptors in the ventral pallidum could be a cause of autism, a condition that hampers people from bonding with others. "Problems with this system could be responsible for some of these social deficits," he says.

Addicted to love

Human brain-imaging research has implicated the ventral pallidum in romantic love and in drug addiction. It’s not surprising that the same region might be responsible for both, Young says: "People have always thought of love as an addiction."

Experiments show that animals in cages with striped walls injected with cocaine into their ventral pallidum seek out striped walls. They associate the wall pattern with the euphoria of the drug, Young says.

"Perhaps pair bonding is a similar thing," he suggests. "When a vole mates with a female, vasopressin is released in his brain, which stimulates the ventral pallidum. He gets a reward, and associates it with that female."

Vasopressin may also be associated with anxiety. Voles given the vasopressin receptor gene in the ventral pallidum were more anxious than normal: they ventured out into the open less often.

"This helps explain something we already know: that attachments often happen after a stressful experience," says Sue Carter of the University of Illinois, Chicago, who specializes in rodent and human hormones.

"Hormones released when animals are stressed could pave the way for new relationships," she says. "Animals form social bonds when they need them."


References

  1. Pitkow, L. et al. Facilitation of affiliation and pair-bond formation by vasopressin receptor gene transfer into the ventral forebrain of a monogamous vole. Journal of Neuroscience, 21(18), 7392 - 7396, (2001).

ERICA KLARREICH | Nature News Service
Further information:
http://www.nature.com/nsu/010927/010927-4.html

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Discovery of a Key Regulatory Gene in Cardiac Valve Formation
24.05.2017 | Universität Basel

nachricht Carcinogenic soot particles from GDI engines
24.05.2017 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

Im Focus: Using graphene to create quantum bits

In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.

In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Physicists discover mechanism behind granular capillary effect

24.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Measured for the first time: Direction of light waves changed by quantum effect

24.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>