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Gene Therapy for Depression

Sun, 24th Oct 2010

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A gene injected into one region of the brain might hold the key to treating depressed patients who fail to respond to conventional therapies.

Writing in Science Translation Medicine, Cornell-based scientist BrainBrian Alexander and his colleagues show how manipulating a gene called p11 in a brain region known as the nucleus accumbens can alter behaviour.

Mice genetically engineered to lack the gene, which plays a role in sensitising nerve cells to serotonin, one of the brain's feel-good nerve transmitter chemicals, display behaviours consistent with depression, including a lack of interest activities that control animals find rewarding. But, by using a modified adeno-associated virus as a vector to add the gene back into the nucleus accumbens, which is known to be the brain's main pleasure centre, the team found that the previously p11-deficient mice began to behave like their normal control counterparts.

Intriguingly, brains from depressed humans studied post mortem show that the human p11 gene is also present at much lower levels in the same brain regions of these subjects, suggesting that what works in the mice might also work in man. And as clinical trials are already underway in patients with Parkinson's Disease to add therapeutic genes that can remedy some of the symptoms of the disorder, the same techniques could be used to deliver extra copies of p11 to depressed people.

But, in the nearer term, researchers will also now focus on finding other ways to manipulate the activity of the p11 gene, which could offer a range of new ways to fight depression.

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Thedoc:

This article is confusing. The mice in the study were missing a gene, but the article says-- "Intriguingly, brains from depressed humans studied post mortem show that the human p11 gene is also present at much lower levels in the same brain regions of these subjects, suggesting that what works in the mice might also work in man." This says that the gene is present at lower levels. However, except for certain early development problems, the gene complement for every cell in one person will be identical. So, the depressed human subjects in the study were either missing a gene, or there was evidence that the gene was present but not expressed as much as in normal humans, or you just meant that the gene was present in a lower proportion of the subject group than in a control group. Please Clarify.

Steve SteveFish, Tue, 26th Oct 2010

Hello Steve

I agree that I could have written that more clearly; what I meant to say is that the gene product is present at lower levels i.e. the expression level of the gene is lower in depressed people.

Chris chris, Thu, 28th Oct 2010

Chris:

Thanks for the response. I, of course, have never written anything that wasn't perfectly clear, but then I tend to be selectively forgetful.

Steve SteveFish, Fri, 29th Oct 2010

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