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September 17, 2005
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HUMAN GENE CAN TURN NASTY MICE NICE.
The Cincinnati Post (Cincinnati, OH); 9/15/2005
Byline: Carolyn Abraham Toronto Globe and Mail
A breakthrough experiment has used a human gene to turn vicious mice into very gentle creatures -- holding out the prospect of doing similarly sweet things to violent people.
Scientists at the University of British Columbia's Center for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics created a strain of extremely vicious lab mice three years ago after accidentally deleting a gene that affects brain development.
The mutant mice were so aggressive they killed their mates, chewed their siblings' tails and even attacked their lab handlers.
The unanswered question was whether the human form of the gene also plays a role in aggression in people. The new research now suggests that it does.
By giving mutant mice embryos the human version of the gene they were missing, the UBC team found the nasty rodents grew into a rather nice strain instead.
As such, the experiment raises the possibility of designing a gene therapy to counter aggression -- as well as the eerie specter of enhancing it.
More immediately, it means mice can act as models to study human genes involved in abnormal behavior and psychiatric disorders.
"Mice have been used to study human genes for cancers and other diseases lots," said UBC geneticist Elizabeth Simpson, senior author of the report published Wednesday in the Journal of Neuroscience. "But this is the first time (a human gene) is being used in a mouse to study the brain and behavior."
After UBC researchers created the so-called "fierce mice" in 2002, they searched the human genome looking for a gene with a sequence that closely matched the one missing in their mutant mice.
That gene, Simpson said, called NR2E1, is found on a region of Chromosome 6 in humans that has been repeatedly associated with bipolar disorder, a serious medical illness resulting in dramatic mood swings. The gene itself produces molecules that regulate other genes, suggesting it plays many roles in the human body, including those involved in brain development and function. That a similar version exists in the mouse suggests the gene is a primitive one, passed down to mice and people from a common ancestor many millenniums ago. The team ordered the human gene by mail and then inserted it into a mouse embryo at the earliest stage of development. This way the new human gene would be absorbed into the animal's genome as the embryo cell divided and grew.
Mice without any form of the NR2E1 genes were, as predicted, violent. Those with two copies of the mouse gene were normal, as were those with one mouse copy and one human copy. But most surprising was that mice that carried only the human NR2E1 gene also appeared to be normal.
"They were indistinguishable from mice in the wild," Simpson said.
COPYRIGHT 2005 The Cincinnati Post. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of the Dialog Corporation by Gale Group.
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The Warning Signs Of An Impending Bipolar Disorder Manic Episode
Bipolar disorder - as the name implies - involves two distinct set of symptoms. One set throws the individual down into the depths of a massive depression. The other places the individual who suffers with bipolar disorder at the top of a peak manic episode.
Most everyone can eventually recognize the warning signs of an impending depressive episode related to bipolar disorder. More likely than not, individuals with bipolar disorder try very hard to avoid it.
However, for many individuals with bipolar disorder, it's more difficult to recognize the signs of an impending manic episode. After all, a manic episode of bipolar disorder can be mistaken in some cases - especially in the very early formation -- for the lifting of the corresponding mood swing of the depression.
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