A Better Mouse Model

The Science Teacher, Summer 2011 | Go to article overview

A Better Mouse Model


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) School of Medicine have developed a mouse model of major depressive disorder (MDD) based on a rare genetic mutation that appears to cause MDD.

The findings, which appear online in the American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics EarlyView, could help clarify the brain events that lead to MDD and contribute to the development of new and better means of treatment and prevention. The report also illustrates an advance in the design of recombinant mouse models that may be applicable to many human diseases.

"Major depressive disorder is a leading cause of suffering, disability, and premature death from all causes, including suicide. While the cause is currently unknown, twin and adoption studies indicate that genetic factors account for 40--70% of the risk for developing this common disorder," explains lead author George Zubenko, a professor of psychiatry at the Pitt School of Medicine.

"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," Zubenko says. "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. …

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