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Building a Better Mouse Could Lead to Treatment for Schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s Disease

A study published in Neuropsychopharmacology has revealed that manipulating a single gene can improve intelligence and memory in mice, offering potential for the treatment of Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia. The study is preliminary, but, as Science News points out, it hints at exciting possibilities in the future.

Researchers from Canada, Oman, and the UK worked together on the study, which aimed to determine what would happen if a protein called phosphodiesterase-4B (or PDE4B), which has been found to play a role in causing schizophrenia, was inhibited. The results were encouraging: mice began to demonstrate signs of improved intelligence when it came to their environment and other mice.

Mice with the inhibited version of PDE4B displayed better recognition capability when it came to fellow mice, and were quicker than the control group to learn which items in their cages had been moved around. They were also more adventurous when it came to “brightly-lit spaces”, according to Science News, although this newfound bravery did seem to make them a little oblivious when it came to danger. As the article points out, the mice were keen to explore an area of the test environment that had bobcat urine sprinkled on it. Alexander McGirr, study co-author and expert in psychiatry at the University of British Columbia, rightly states that “not being afraid of cat urine is not a good thing in a mouse.”

Disabling PDE4B is done by altering its ability to hydrolyze cAMP, an intracellular signalling molecule that allows PDE4B to better bind with a protein called Disrupted in Schizophrenia 1 (DISC1). DISC1 increases the likelihood of schizophrenia, particularly with PDE4B as a binding partner. PDE4B in itself is a risk factor for schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, and bipolar affective disorder.

Without the ability to break down cAMP, PDE4B may be incapable of leading to psychiatric and neurobehavioural disorders. However, at the moment it is far too early to tell whether or not a drug therapy that targets the protein can be safely developed.

Some of this study’s findings depended on the successful observation of mouse behaviour, and the drug discovery field in general is clearly in need of technology that can analyse and record rodent behaviour 24/7 with identity retained. Fortunately, ActualHCA offers exactly these capabilities, and much more, to anyone conducting similar experiments.

To read the article in Science News, click here. For a look at the study in Neuropsychopharmacology, click here. If you would like more information on ActualHCA, visit our product page or contact us today.