From United Press International:
BALTIMORE, July 31 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists have genetically engineered the first mouse model of both the anatomical and behavioral defects involved in schizophrenia.
Johns Hopkins University researchers said their new mouse model is based on a genetic change relevant to the disease.
Dr. Akira Sawa, an associate professor of psychiatry and neuroscience, and his colleagues said they took advantage of the recent discovery of a major risk factor for the disease -- the DISC1 gene -- that makes a protein that helps nerve cells assume their proper positions in the brain.
The researchers generated mice that make an incomplete, shortened form of the DISC1 protein in addition to the regular type. That short form of the protein attaches to the full-length one, disrupting its normal duties.
As the mice mature, they display behaviors that parallel those observed in schizophrenic patients.
Sawa said the new mouse model will help in exploring how external factors, such as stress or viruses, might worsen symptoms.
"The animals can also be bred with other strains of genetically engineered mice to try to pinpoint additional schizophrenia genes," he said.
The study is reported online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Photograph by Rasbak.