Canadian scientists are using a breed of permanently "cheerful" mice to research a new treatment for clinical depression.
By breeding mice with an absence of TREK-1 -- a gene that can affect serotonin transmission in the brain -- researchers were able create a depression-resistant strain.
"Depression is a devastating illness, which affects around 10 percent of people at some point in their life," said Dr. Guy Debonnel, a psychiatrist and professor at McGill University in Montreal.
Debonnel, principal author of the new research, notes current medications for clinical depression are ineffective for a third of patients, which is why the development of alternate treatments is so important.
The so-called knock-out mice were created in collaboration with Michel Lazdunski, co-author of the research, in his laboratory at the University of Nice, France.
"These 'knock-out' mice were then tested using separate behavioral, electrophysiological and biochemical measures known to gauge 'depression' in animals," said Debonnel. "The results really surprised us; our 'knock-out' mice acted as if they had been treated with antidepressants for at least three weeks."
The research -- representing the first time depression has been eliminated through genetic alteration -- is detailed in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
Copyright 2006 by United Press International
Explore further: The coming merge of human and machine intelligence