How anxiety works at the cellular level – proteins identified that could be targets for treatment
Anxiety affects the lives of millions of people, with many suffering from long-term mental and physical symptoms. Although often treated with psychology-based techniques like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), these mouse neurons – reconstructed here in 3D from high-powered microscopy images – offer clues to the how anxiety works at the cellular level. In normal neurons (left), a protein called MeCP2 (artificially-coloured red) hitches a ride into the nucleus (blue) with another protein called importin alpha-5, where it helps to provoke anxious signals. Depriving similar mouse cells of importin alpha-5 traps MeCP2 on the outside (right) – mice without importin alpha-5 are less anxious in stressful situations like escaping a maze. Researchers now hope to use drugs which target related proteins to calm human sufferers, combining this neuroscience with other forms of therapy.
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