Scientists find better mouse model for major depressive disorder

Major depressive disorder (MDD) can not only be devastating to an individual, but to families as well. And not only because of the painful process of helping a relative through the suffering and disability that comes with MDD, but also because of a genetic component to the disease. Genetic factors account for between 40 and 70 percent of the risk involved in developing major depression. That means if a close family member has it, there is a chance you or another loved one could have it, too. This is all according to George Zubenko, a psychiatry professor at Pitt School of Medicine and lead author of new research that might help nail down the genetic component to major depressive disorder.

Zubenko and colleagues have built on previous studies that links a mutation in the control region of CREB1 to MDD. They developed a new mouse model based on that mutation to help scientists find out more about MDD.

"In this report, we describe how we constructed a laboratory mouse strain that mimics the brain mechanism that leads to major depression in humans, rather than symptoms," Zubenko said in a release. "Nonetheless, in our initial characterization, the mutant mice exhibited several features that were reminiscent of the human disorder, including alterations of brain anatomy, gene expression, behavior, as well as increased infant mortality."

Zubenko also said that animal models such as this one--ones that help scientists get at the root causes of MDD--"have the best chance of leading to advances in treatment and prevention."

- read the release from the University of Pittsburgh
- and the abstract in the American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics