Scientists at Queen Mary University of London and the University of Roehampton, London, have discovered that patients suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) have increased levels of a protein called Immuno- mood ulin (Imood) in their lymphocytes, a type of immune cell.
Mice with high levels of this protein were also found to exhibit behaviors that are characteristic of anxiety and stress, such as digging and excessive grooming.
When the researchers treated the mice with an antibody that neutralized Imood, the animals' anxiety levels reduced.
The findings have led the researchers to file a patent application for the antibody and they are now working with a drug company to develop a potential treatment for human patients.
There is mounting evidence that the immune system plays an important role in mental disorders. And in fact people with auto-immune diseases are known to have higher than average rates of mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression and OCD. Our findings overturn a lot of the conventional thinking about mental health disorders being solely caused by the central nervous system." Professor Fulvio D'Acquisto, professor of immunology at the University of Roehampton and honorary professor of Immunopharmacology at Queen Mary University of London
Professor D'Acquisto, whose findings are published in the journal Brain Behavior and Immunity, first identified Imood by chance while studying a different protein called Annexin-A1 and the role it plays in autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and lupus.
He had created transgenic mice to over-express this protein in their T-cells, one of the main cells responsible for the development of autoimmune diseases, but found the mice showed more anxiety than normal. When he and his team analyzed the genes expressed in the animals' T-cells, they discovered one gene in particular was especially active. The protein produced from this gene was what they eventually named Immuno- mood ulin, or Imood. Related Stories
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