Its in the genes: Study opens door to new treatment of the blues
A Florida State University scientist used a gene transfer technique to block the expression of a gene associated with clinical depression in a new study of mice that could lead to better treatment of human beings with this condition.
Carlos Bolanos, an assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience, was among a team of researchers that identified the role of a gene called Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) in the development of social aversion. Mice treated with a transfer technique to block expression of the BDNF gene in a small area of the mid-brain did not develop the aversion despite repeated encounters with aggressive rodents. The study will be published in the Feb. 10 issue of the journal Science.
"Its very exciting because we are slowly but surely identifying mechanisms in the brain underlying psychiatric disorders that have a social withdrawal component, such as social phobia, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and that will allow us to find better ways to treat these disorders," Bolanos said. "This study is significant because it gives us an animal model of the disorder and opens up new areas of study."
In the experiment, the researchers subjected mice to daily bouts of social threats and subordination by aggressive rodents and continuous sensory contact with the aggressors for 10 days. Afterward, the defeated mice avoided any social contact by spending most of their time in the corner of their cages opposite other mice, including those that had not been aggressive toward them.
The defeated mice also displayed little interest in sexual interaction and showed decreased preference for palatable sugary drinks over plain water. A month later, the rodents interest in sex and sweets had returned, but the social avoidance remained.
The researchers found that long-term use of antidepressants, such as fluoxetine (Prozac) and imipramine (Trofanil), were successful in reversing the social withdrawal in these mice. But the successful use of the gene therapy approach to block the expression of the BDNF gene in a highly localized area of the brain suggests the potential for the development of new drug therapies with fewer side effects.
"We have made great progress in our understanding of how antidepressants work, but despite years of research, our knowledge of the changes that these drugs induce in the brain is rudimentary," Bolanos said. "Though available treatments for depression are generally safe and effective, they are still not ideal. It takes long-term treatment before seeing clinical benefit, and potential side effects are a serious problem. The findings of this study provide exciting new leads and point to potential strategies, such as developing drugs capable of targeting specific proteins in restricted brain areas."
Carlos Bolanos | EurekAlert!
The most recent press releases about innovation >>>
Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:
Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.
For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...
What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.
To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...
A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes
The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....
Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through
A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...
Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision
Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...