DAVID GRANOVSKY

New ‘Schizophrenia Gene’ Prompts Researchers To Test Potential Drug Target

In SCIENCE & STEM CELLS on October 29, 2009 at 2:28 am

New ‘Schizophrenia Gene’ Prompts Researchers To Test Potential Drug Target

ScienceDaily (Oct. 27, 2009) — Johns Hopkins scientists report having used a commercially available drug to successfully “rescue” animal brain cells that they had intentionally damaged by manipulating a newly discovered gene that links susceptibility genes for schizophrenia and autism.

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Schizophrenia

The rescue, described as “surprisingly complete” by the researchers, was accomplished with rapamycin, a drug known to act on a protein called mTOR whose role involves the production of other proteins. The idea to test this drug’s effectiveness at rescuing impaired nerve cells occurred to the team as a result of having discovered a new gene that appears to act in concert with two previously identified schizophrenia susceptibility genes, one of which is involved in the activation of the protein mTOR. This piecing together of multiple genes adds support for the idea that susceptibility to schizophrenia and autism may have common genetic fingerprints, according to the researchers.

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Autism

The newfound gene, dubbed KIAA1212, serves as a bridge linking two schizophrenia genes: DISC1 and AKT. Suspecting KIAA1212 as one of many potential binding partners interacting with DISC1, whose name is an acronym for “Disrupted-in-Schizophrenia,” the researchers genetically shut down the production of DISC1 proteins in newly born neurons in the hippocampus region of an adult mouse brain. The hippocampus contains a niche where native stem cells give rise to fully developed new neurons. The idea was to deliberately cause these cells to malfunction and then watch what happened.

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Hippocampus

via New ‘Schizophrenia Gene’ Prompts Researchers To Test Potential Drug Target.

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