Ever hear of mGluR5? Sapap3?
I surely hadn’t until this past week when some results from research conducted at Duke University were revealed.
I’m no scientist, so in the most basic of layman’s terms, this is how I understand it:
Sapap3 is a protein that helps to establish connections between neurons so that cells can communicate. In 2007, researchers at Duke University created a new mouse model for obsessive-compulsive disorder by deleting a gene that codes for Sapap3. This Sapap3-lacking mouse exhibits OCD-like behaviors, grooming itself excessively and showing signs of anxiety.
In the more recent study, researchers honed in on a neuroreceptor called mGluR5 (metabotropic glutamate receptor 5), which is a protein the helps regulate the brain’s response to outside stimuli. When activity of mGluR5 was intentionally blocked, the OCD-like behaviors in the laboratory mice mentioned above quickly disappeared.
When I say quickly, I mean quickly:
“The reversibility of the symptoms was immediate – on a minute time frame,” said senior investigator Nicole Calakos.
Conversely, by giving laboratory mice a drug that boosted mGluR5 activity, the researchers found they could instantaneously recreate the same OCD-like behaviors and anxiety they saw in the mice who lacked Sapap3. Without a properly functioning Sapap3 protein, the mGluR5 receptor is always “on,” making the brain regions involved in compulsions overactive.
So could there be a cure for OCD on the horizon?
Who knows? While I find this new research incredibly exciting, there is still so much more work to be done and so many more questions to be answered.
While we are fortunate to have dedicated researchers who are committed to finding these answers, we don’t have to sit around and wait for them to finish their work. Those with OCD do not have to suffer – there is good treatment available. And while everyone’s “OCD Toolbox” might look a little different, exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, is a must.
If you’re interested, you can read about the above study in more detail here.