Researchers have found that lack of a brain protein makes mice notably less anxious and may extend the findings to humans with anxiety disorders. Anxiety is a natural human response to life, but when it gets out of hand it can inhibit everyday behaviour and cause much suffering.
Around 15 million people might have had the necessity for anxiety related treatment.
The anti-anxiety drugs have always been very effective in such needy times. The major class is known as the benzodiazepines but these have the drawback of causing sedation that may make it hard to function. They also have the potential to cause addiction. Researchers at the University of North Carolina, and others, now report that they have found a potential new target for anti-anxiety drugs.
They've been looking at mice genetically altered so they don't produce a natural brain protein called protein kinase C. These mice seem to be more sensitive to the brain's own sedative molecules, known as neurosteroids. They are less fearful of heights and open spaces (a test of anxiety in mice). The researchers wonder if creating inhibitors for protein kinase C would be a useful way forward for treating anxiety in humans, providing an alternative to the benzodiazepines.