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"Long before it's in the papers"
January 28, 2015

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Researchers breed permanently “happy” mice

Aug. 24, 2006
Courtesy McGill University
and World Science staff

A new breed of permanently “cheerful” mouse is providing new hope for treatment of clinical depression, researchers say.

Courtesy National Institutes of Health

The sci­en­tists stud­ied a gene called TREK-1, which can af­fect the flow of a brain chem­i­cal called ser­o­to­nin. This in turn in­flu­ences mood, sleep and sex­u­al­i­ty. 

By breed­ing mice with­out TREK-1, the re­searchers sa­id they cre­at­ed a de­pres­sion-resistant strain.

The find­ings ap­pear in the re­search jour­nal Na­ture Neu­ro­science this week.

“De­pres­sion is a dev­as­tat­ing ill­ness, which af­fects a­round 10 per­cent of peo­ple at some point in their life,” sa­id Guy Debon­nel of McGill U­ni­ver­si­ty in Mont­re­al, Can­a­da, prin­ci­pal au­thor of the pa­per. Cur­rent treat­ments fail for a third of pa­tients, he added.

Sci­en­tists al­so be­lieve mice can suf­fer moods a­kin to hu­man de­pres­sion, ev­i­denced by with­drawn and pas­sive be­hav­ior in the ro­dents. Some of the same brain chem­i­cals have been linked to both hu­man and ro­dent “de­pres­sion.”

Debon­nel’s team tested the new­ly bred mice us­ing “be­hav­ioral, e­lec­tro­phys­io­log­i­cal and bio­chem­i­cal meas­ures known to gauge ‘de­pres­sion’ in an­i­mal­s,” he sa­id. “The re­sults re­al­ly sur­prised us. [They] acted as if they had been treated with an­tide­pres­sants for at least three week­s.” 

The re­search rep­re­sents the first time de­pres­sion has been e­lim­i­nat­ed by ge­net­i­cal­ly mod­i­fy­ing an or­gan­ism, he added. “The dis­cov­er­y of a link be­tween TREK-1 and de­pres­sion could ul­ti­mate­ly lead to the de­vel­op­ment of a new gen­er­a­tion of an­ti­de­pres­sant drugs.”

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