Tinkering with a gene could control addiction, depression

New York, Nov 11 (IANS) Effecting changes to a single gene called FosB could help control both addiction and depression, says a new research.

Researchers have also developed a DNA regulatory technique that modifies the environment around this gene to control gene expression and behavioural consequences.
Using mouse models, the researchers introduced synthetic-transcription factors into a brain region called the nucleus accumbens near the gene FosB.
They found that changes to this single gene brought on by the transcription factors made the study mice more resilient to stress and less likely to become addicted to cocaine.
Transcription factors act by epigenetic mechanisms: chemically modifying either the DNA itself, or the histone proteins packaged around DNA.
“Because such epigenetic regulation occurs at hundreds or thousands of genes, until now it had been impossible to determine the difference between the mere presence of an epigenetic modification and its functional relevance to neuropsychiatric disease,” said lead researcher Eric Nestler from Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
To directly address this issue, the researchers developed an innovative method to control epigenetic regulation of FosB.
Heller introduced synthetic transcription factors called Zinc Finger Proteins (ZFPs), designed to target only a single gene out of 20,000, by incorporating them into a virus and injecting that virus into the reward-related brain region.
Upon binding to that one gene, the FosB-ZFPs modified histones in the vicinity of the FosB gene, in order to either activate (turn on) or repress (turn off) expression.
The study appeared online in the journal Nature Neuroscience.