September 07, 2004

Interview with Psychotic Mice Scientists

Read more... Schizophrenia Biology

As we've covered before in our Daily Schizophrenia Blog, the recent development of genetically alterred laboratory mice that develop schizophrenia may offer insights into the cause of schizophrenia. Here is a brief interview with one of the researchers involved:

Q: What makes mice psychotic other than the looming presence of an
unfriendly feline.

A: In this case the rodents have genetically engineered mutations in two genes.

Q: How do they know which genes to tweak?

A: The mutations are the same as those found in a Canadian family with a history of schizophrenia. The genes concerned are called NPAS1 and NPAS3.

Q: Who is doing this?

A: Dr Steven McKnight and a team from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre and the Children's Hospital Medical Centre in Cincinnati.

Q: What happened?

��� A: The mice without a working copy of the genes displayed erratic behaviour. When introduced to other mice, instead of climbing over them and sniffing them, they began darting about, trying to avoid them.

Q: So?

A: When the University of Texas research team examined the brains of the psychotic mice, they found an abnormally low level of a protein called reelin,
important in embryonic development of the brain and brain cell signalling.

Q: What has all this to do with schizophrenia?

A: Studies of people who died with schizophrenia have found reduced levels
of reelin in their brains.

Q: So now schizophrenics know they have something in common with psychotic mice. How can that possibly help them?

A: The link may help pharmaceutical companies come up with better therapies. Schizophrenia is a condition that affects around 24 million people worldwide. They experience disrupted thoughts and behaviour and sometimes delusions.

Source: An excerpt from a story in The Herald, Glasgow, Ireland


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