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Fundamental research, Health, Scientific progress

26 - 08 - 2017

Anxiety and Depression: a new genetic approach

Researchers have recently discovered that removing the Left1 gene in mice and fish favored the development of anxiety and depression.

 

Anxiety is a complex behavioral trait. Although it is useful in the face of danger, it becomes counterproductive when appearing for no reason and can lead to many disorders, including depression. This is true amongst fish, mice, and humans.

 

The Left1 gene is present in both animals and humans. Amongst animals, its removal leads to a loss of cells in the hypothalamus, an area of the brain which controls behaviour.

 

In order to further study this gene's role, researchers removed it from the hypothalamus of zebrafish (danio rerio). They then noted that the fish would stay still at the bottom of their tank, and that their growth would slow down. The subjects exhibited signs of stress, and numerous genes linked to depression and anxiety displayed modified activity. When repeated on mice, the experiment gave rise to the same result.

 

 

A molecular analysis of the effects suggests that there may also be a link between the activity of  Left1 and anxiety and depression amongst humans.

 

Further studies are being conducted in order to better understand and treat these behavioural disorders.