By altering a specific gene, scientists have created a intelligent and bold mice that may pave the way for new treatments for brain disorders such as Alzheimer's, schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The researchers at the University of Leeds in UK and Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto altered a gene to inhibit the activity of an enzyme called phosphodiesterase-4B (PDE4B), which is present in many organs of the vertebrate body, including the brain.
In behavioral tests, the PDE4B-inhibited mice showed enhanced cognitive abilities. They tended to learn faster, remember events longer and solve complex exercises better than ordinary mice.
The brainy mice were quicker at learning the location of a hidden escape platform in a test called the Morris water maze. They were less fearful and also showed less anxiety. The PDE4B-inhibited mice with diminished memory of fear and anxiety could be useful for researchers in developing treatments for PTSD.
"Cognitive impairments are currently poorly treated, so I'm excited that our work using mice has identified phosphodiesterase-4B as a promising target for potential new treatments," said Dr Steve Clapcote, from the University of Leeds School of Biomedical Sciences.
The researchers are now working on developing drugs that will specifically inhibit PDE4B. These drugs will be tested in animals to see whether any would be suitable for clinical trials in humans.
"In the future, medicines targeting PDE4B may potentially improve the lives of individuals with neurocognitive disorders and life-impairing anxiety, and they may have a time-limited role after traumatic events," said Dr Alexander McGirr, from the University of British Columbia. The study was published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology