12 May 2009

Soothing A Distressed Brain: FGF2

Anxiety (40 million American adults) and depression (15 million American adults) are among the most common causes of disability and academic failure / underachievement worldwide. If one were to develop an effective, safe, and non-addictive treatment for anxiety and depression, the positive impact on the human world would be immense. University of Michigan researchers have studied the impact of FGF2 -- fibroblast growth factor 2 -- in 19 generations of rats that were bred selectively for high or low anxiety levels.
"We have discovered that FGF2 has two important new roles: it's a genetic vulnerability factor for anxiety and a mediator for how the environment affects different individuals. This is surprising, as FGF2 and related molecules are known primarily for organizing the brain during development and repairing it after injury," Perez said.

Finally, the findings suggest that part of FGF2's role in reducing anxiety may be due to its ability to increase the survival of new cells in a brain region called the hippocampus. Previous research has suggested that depression decreases the production and incorporation of new brain cells, a process called neurogenesis. Although the researchers found that high-anxiety rats produced the same number of new brain cells as low-anxiety rats, they found decreased survival of new brain cells in high-anxiety rats compared to low-anxiety rats. However, FGF2 treatment and environmental enrichment each restored brain cell survival. _Genengnews
Persons with chronic anxiety and depression may also have significant memory problems, perhaps due to reduced neurogenesis and reduced survival of new brain cells. Treatments that allow new cells to survive and function normally in the brain would logically help to normalise the life experience of persons with chronic anxiety and clinical depression, and reduce the enormous societal expense of these mental health disorders.

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