Genes influence the feeling of fear

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Genes influence the feeling of fear

The susceptibility to fear is largely determined by a special gene, researchers from the University Hospital of Münster report to the news agency "DPA". Prof. Katharina Domschke's team has discovered a gene that has a significant influence on the perception of fear in mice.

According to the psychiatrist Prof. Katharina Domschke, the gene discovered by her team is "extremely exciting because it seems to play a role in fear for both animals and humans". According to the current state of research, a total of thirty to one hundred genes are decisive for the feeling of fear, but the gene that has now been discovered seems to be one of the determining factors, according to the researchers at the Münster University Hospital. The genes detected in the mice "play an essential role for the neuropeptide S receptor", which in turn has a significant influence on the feeling of fear, explained Prof. Katharina Domschke.

Anxiety gene responsible for anxiety disorders and depression? The researchers at the University Clinic in Münster discovered a gene in mice that has a significant influence on the individual's sense of fear. The gene is responsible for the function of the neuropeptide S receptors, which in turn have a significant influence on the susceptibility to anxiety but also depression, report Prof. Katharina Domschke and colleagues. The experts explained that the neuropeptides act as tiny nerve messengers, which have an indirect influence on the interplay of several nerve messenger systems such as serotonin and adrenaline , according to the experts. However, the process also works in the opposite direction, so that the mice were "much less afraid" by administering neuropeptide S, explained Prof. Domschke.

Function of the neuropeptide S receptors crucial for anxiety perception In this way, the gene responsible for the function of the neuropeptide S receptors crucially controls the perception of fear, the scientists explained the effect of the discovered gene. "This seems to be one of the genes that play an important role," emphasized Prof. Domschke to the news agency "DPA". In humans, too, this is one of the main influencing factors that determine susceptibility to anxiety, the scientists at the University Clinic in Münster explained. A functioning neuropeptide S system is a basic prerequisite "so as not to be afraid of illness", explained the expert Prof. Domschke. The researchers hope that their findings can help to develop new methods and drugs for the treatment of anxiety and depression in the future.

Improving the diagnosis and treatment of anxiety disorders In addition, the genetic knowledge could also help to improve the diagnosis, since the determination of the genetic factors enables the risk of depression and anxiety without taking a tissue sample from the brain of the person concerned. Using the measurable, time-stable genetic variants in the blood that influence the neuropeptide S receptors, the risk of possible pathological fears can be determined relatively easily, said Prof. In this way, thanks to genetics, there is also the possibility in the medium term of even more specific ones The researchers explained that drugs for anxiety and depression can be developed and their effects checked more quickly. "This saves the patient a lot of suffering," emphasized Prof. Katharina Domschke's importance of the research results.

Differences between normal and pathological anxiety The scientists at the University Hospital in Münster also explained that there is a significant difference between normal fear and pathological anxiety. While normal feelings of fear bring advantages because people react with a fight or flight in an emergency, the anxiety states become “pathological if the fear lasts too long or occurs in situations that are not actually dangerous,” explained Prof. The pathological anxiety states more of a hindrance in everyday life and trigger a not inconsiderable “suffering”, the expert continues. The spectrum from phobias to panic attacks and the avoidance of social contacts, emphasized the scientists at the University Hospital of Münster.

There is a risk of anxiety disorders in the family According to Prof. Domschke it has been known “for over 50 years” that “there are fears in the family”. According to this, close family members (parents, siblings, children) of the patients with anxiety disorders in this country have a three to six-fold increased risk of illness compared to the average illness rates in the population, according to the psychiatrist of the University Hospital Münster. According to the expert, what is new about the current research results is "that one can see exactly which mutations occur significantly more frequently in anxiety sufferers." The researchers "have identified four to five genes that seem to convey a risk," said Prof. Future These not only help to significantly improve the risk assessment in relation to possible pathological anxiety states, but also the development of new treatment methods and medications could benefit from the current study results, according to the expert. (fp)

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Image: Gerd Altmann / Shapes: Graphicxtras /

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Video: Alleles and Genes


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