Several newly discovered variants of a gene increase the risk of developing anxiety disorders. A research team aims to derive new therapies from this finding which are better tailored to the individual patients.
Mental, social and inherited factors all play a role in anxiety disorders. In the journal "Molecular Psychiatry", a research team from Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (JMU) in Bavaria, Germany, describes a hitherto unknown genetic pathway for developing such diseases:
They pinpointed at least four variants of the GLRB gene (glycine receptor B) as risk factors for anxiety and panic disorders. More than 5000 voluntary participants and 500 patients afflicted by panic disorder took part in the study that delivered these results.
In Germany, around 15 percent of adults suffer from anxiety and panic disorders. Some people may have an extreme fear of spiders or other objects while others have breathing difficulties and accelerated heart beat in small rooms or large gatherings of people.
With some afflicted persons, the anxiety attacks occur for no apparent cause. Many patients suffer from the detrimental impacts on their everyday lives – they often have problems at work and withdraw from social contacts.
How are fear and anxiety triggered? How do anxiety disorders arise and evolve?
Scientists from Münster, Hamburg and Würzburg have looked into these questions within the scope of Collaborative Research Center (CRC) TR 58 funded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. Their goal is to develop new therapies that are better tailored to the individual patients. Anxiety disorders can be treated with drugs and behaviour therapy for instance.
Gene triggers hyperekplexia
The discovery that different variants of the GLRB gene are associated with anxiety disorders might also contribute to the development of improved therapies. The gene had been known to the researchers for some time, albeit only in connection with a different disease:
"Some mutations of the gene cause a rare neurological disorder called hyperekplexia," explains Professor Jürgen Deckert, member of the CRC and Director of the Department of Psychiatry at the JMU University Hospital. The patients are permanently hypertonic and show pronounced startle responses, which may even cause sufferers to fall involuntarily. Similar to persons suffering from anxiety disorders, these patients develop behaviour to avoid potentially frightening situations.
The "fear network" in the brain is activated
But the GLRB gene variants that have recently been associated with anxiety and panic disorders for the first time are different from the ones described above. They occur more frequently and presumably entail less severe consequences. But they, too, trigger overshooting startle responses, and as a result may excessively activate the brain's "fear network". High-resolution images of the brain activities of study participants provided the clues for the Würzburg scientists.
"The results point to a hitherto unknown pathway of developing an anxiety disorder," Deckert says. He believes that further investigations are now necessary to determine whether these findings can be harnessed to develop new or individual therapies. For example, it is conceivable to bring the "fear network" that is misregulated by the GLRB gene back on track by administering drugs.
CRC collaborates with panic network
The members of the Collaborative Research Center "Fear, Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders" obtained these results in cooperation with researchers from the "PanikNetz" panic network. The Würzburg team is part of the network that is funded by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research.
“GLRB allelic variation associated with agoraphobic cognitions, increased startle response and fear network activation: a potential neurogenetic pathway to panic disorder”, Molecular Psychiatry, published online on 7 February 2017, DOI: 10.1038/mp.2017.2
Prof. Dr. Jürgen Deckert, Chair of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy of the University of Würzburg, T + 49 931 201-77000, firstname.lastname@example.org
https://campus.uni-muenster.de/sfbtrr58/the-project/ Collaborative Research Center "Fear, Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders"
Robert Emmerich | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
Microscope measures muscle weakness
16.11.2018 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
Good preparation is half the digestion
16.11.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Stoffwechselforschung
Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.
Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure
Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
23.10.2018 | Event News
16.11.2018 | Health and Medicine
16.11.2018 | Life Sciences
16.11.2018 | Life Sciences