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Genetically modified mice see rise in intelligence

Scientists have discovered that altering a single gene to block an enzyme called phosphodiesterase-4B (PDE4B) resulted in mice becoming smarter and less fearful. The PDE4B enzyme is found in many organs including the brain.

In studies, the intelligence of altered mice was shown in their ability to recognize other mice and objects seen on previous days with greater reliability and accuracy. Intelligence was also shown with problem solving tests.

With the anxiety issue, further tests found the genetically altered mice were less able to recall a fearful event after several days than unaltered mice. Furthermore, genetically engineered mice subjected to stress were more willing to spend time in open, bright spaces when compared with ordinary mice subjected to the same stresses.

It is hoped that the work will one day help with the treatment of disorders like Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Here it could be possible to develop a drug that can inhibit PDE4B. The advantage here is that loss of brain function could be slowed down, and unpleasant memories blocked. This developed is a long-way off and before any human trials can be considered, animal tests must be undertaken.

The research was led by Leeds University, U.K. The research has been published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology. The paper is titled “Specific Inhibition of Phosphodiesterase-4B Results in Anxiolysis and Facilitates Memory Acquisition.”

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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