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Improved Animal Model Aids Study of Major Depression

Major depressive disorder is a serious illness that is often inherited. To improve study of the disorder, researchers have developed a mouse model of MDD that is based on a rare genetic mutation that appears to cause MDD in the majority of people who inherit it.

The model is expected to help clarify the brain events that lead to MDD, and contribute to the development of new and better means of treatment and prevention.

“Major depressive disorder is a leading cause of suffering, disability and premature death from all causes including suicide. While the cause currently is unknown, twin and adoption studies indicate that genetic factors account for 40 to 70 percent of the risk for developing this common disorder,” explained lead author George Zubenko, M.D., Ph.D.

“In this report, we describe how we constructed a laboratory mouse strain that mimics the brain mechanism that leads to major depression in humans, rather than symptoms,” he said.

“Nonetheless, in our initial characterization, the mutant mice exhibited several features that were reminiscent of the human disorder, including alterations of brain anatomy, gene expression, behavior, as well as increased infant mortality.”

“These findings support the role of the genetic variant in the development of MDD, and affirm the mutant mouse strain as a model of MDD worthy of further study,”¬† Zubenko said.

Previous studies of families with a severe and strongly familial form of MDD revealed a mutation in the control region of CREB1, a gene that orchestrates the expression of many other genes that play important roles in normal brain functioning.

Mice have a CREB1 gene that is very similar to the human version and, with the aid of genetic engineering techniques, the researchers were able to establish a mutant mouse strain that bore the same genetic error.

Since the control regions of corresponding human and mouse genes often have regions of high similarity, the methods described in this report may be useful in creating mouse models of other human diseases.

“Treatments that are the most effective and produce the fewest side effects typically address the root causes of the disease,”¬†Zubenko noted. “Animal models that recapitulate those root causes should better inform us about the brain mechanisms that lead to MDD, and have the best chance of leading to advances in treatment and prevention.”

The report is published online in the American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics EarlyView.

Source: University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Improved Animal Model Aids Study of Major Depression

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Improved Animal Model Aids Study of Major Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 20, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2011/05/20/improved-animal-model-aids-study-of-major-depression/26359.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
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