Summary: Mighty Mouse is back to save the day. Only this time he's working in a laboratory helping us to overcome things that scare us.
Scientists have created a brave mouse that may eventually help scientists understand fearful people. A typical mouse tends to hug the walls and hide in corners, but some labs have been working with mice that don't act this way. These are fearless mice that go to open spaces. They explore freely, which is not a good thing because some predator can come and eat them.
The mice are fearless because they have been genetically modified. They are missing a gene called stathmin. Removing that gene reduces the fears normal mice are born with fears of things like open spaces. It also ***image1***reduces their ability to learn to fear things, such as a tone that is always followed by an electric shock.
When members of this team looked at the brains of normal, anxious mice, they found high levels of the protein associated with the stathmin gene. The big question is whether stathmin plays a role in making people anxious. Because stathmin is in mice and in humans, and the protein is very similar in both, scientists think that what they see in mice can be replicated in humans.
If they are right, people with anxiety disorders would have high levels of the stathmin protein. The discovery does not suggest there will be a cure for human anxiety anytime soon. But it does suggest that maybe science has a new target for looking at the development of treatments. It's Mighty Mouse to save the day!