Wednesday, May 09, 2007
A consortium of researchers at the NIMH and abroad scanned the genomes of BPD and control groups and have identified a number of genes associated with the disorder, including one of particular interest for treatment. They identified the DGKH gene on chromosome 13, which produces an enzyme called diacylglycerol kinase eta which has something to do with the pathway on which Lithium works to control mood swings, as a possible target for novel therapies. It's not clear from the press release what the enzyme does or how it works, so if anyone knows I'd love to hear from you (leave a comment!).
Also in the brain, Chinese researchers may have found a key mutation that helped make humans what they are (i.e., different from apes and monkeys). Neuropsin is an enzyme produced in the brain and involved in learning and memory, a longer form of which is present in humans, but not other animals. This group found that this alternate splice seen in humans arose at our split from other apes and monkeys, about 5 million years ago. I really am crap on my genetics, and only having abstracts to go on doesn't help, but I think this is cool so I'm writing it!
And in other news of the not-quite-human, it seems that battlefield robots are rising the ranks of the US army as quickly as actual soldiers: human units become so attached to their bots that they award them medals and even complaining that testing them in minefields is inhumane. Is this a beginning of robot rights? The Three Laws must, to a good degree, go both ways, I think, for things to work out well.