-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, Sept. 20 (HealthDay News) -- A newly identified gene
that plays an important role in erasing old memories could point to
new ways to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),
The role of the Tet1 gene in "memory extinction" was uncovered
in experiments with mice. The gene appears to control a small group
of other genes necessary for getting rid of old memories.
Boosting the activity of the Tet1 gene may help people with PTSD
by making it easier for them replace memories of traumatic events
with more pleasant memories, said study senior author Li-Huei Tsai,
director of the Institute for Learning and Memory at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
"If there is a way to significantly boost the expression of these genes, then extinction learning is going to be much more active," Tsai, a professor of neuroscience, said in an MIT news release.
Scientists note, however, that research with animals often fails
to provide similar results in humans.
The new study was published in the Sept. 18 issue of the journal
The researchers worked with mice that had an intact Tet1 gene
and mice without Tet1. Both groups of mice were conditioned to fear
a particular cage where they received a mild shock. Once this
memory was formed, the mice were put in the cage again but did not
receive a shock.
Eventually, the mice with the Tet1 gene lost their fear of the
cage as new memories replaced the old ones, but the mice without
Tet1 remained fearful.
"What happens during memory extinction is not erasure of the original memory," Tsai said. "The old trace of memory is telling the mice that this place is dangerous. But the new memory informs the mice that this place is actually safe. There are two choices of memory that are competing with each other."
Further experiments confirmed the important role that Tet1 plays
in memory extinction, according to the news release. The team is
now trying to find ways to boost Tet1 levels and studying whether
such an increase could enhance memory extinction.
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about
post-traumatic stress disorder.
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