Schizophrenic Symptoms Induced in Mice
> 7/31/2007 2:10:40 PM

Running through mazes all day can really mess with a mouse’s mind, but not as much as scientists who have found a way to genetically induce symptoms of schizophrenia. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University inserted into cloned mice a mutated version of the DISC1 gene, which was identified many years ago during the study of a Scottish family with exceptionally high rates of schizophrenia (caber tossing night must have been fun). They described the success of this process in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The abnormal DISC1 stunted neurite outgrowth in the test tube and interfered with the normal development of the cerebral cortex through an interaction with the cytoskeletal proteins that have been implicated in human schizophrenia. Dr. Akira Sawa told Science Daily that, while the symptoms of altered mice were not as pronounced as those exhibited by full schizophrenics, their behavior was noticeably aberrant. They showed an impaired sense of smell and a lack of motivation so strong that they gave up treading water significantly sooner than the control group.

The researchers acknowledge that DISC1 is only one of the genes responsible for schizophrenia, and a rare one at that, but they argue that their research is still valuable by drawing on the case of Parkinson's disease where examination of seemingly unrelated and rare proteins helped to find one universal root of the disease. In addition, reproduction of the symptoms of schizophrenia may be valuable even if the genetic cause is only an approximation. These pseudo-schizophrenics could be subjected to a variety of environmental factors to see how symptoms are affected. Though no cure could be discovered in this way, effective treatments for symptoms could be developed.

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