JERUSALEM, Dec. 11 (Xinhua) -- Israeli scientists have discovered a previously unknown mechanism of nervous anxiety, which may lead to development of new treatments for anxiety disorders, revealed an Israeli study published on Tuesday.
Anxiety disorders are the most common disease of mental disorders. According to estimates, every third person may suffer from severe anxiety disorder in his life.
The Israeli researchers examined the role of "importin" proteins in the central nervous system - the brain and spinal cord. These proteins lead molecules into the nuclei of cells, according to the study published by the Weizmann Institute of Science.
In the experiment on genetically modified mice, the researchers discovered that only mice lacking the "importin alpha-5" gene showed no anxiety in stressful situations - such as in an open space or on an especially high surface, the study found.
In mice lacking "importin alpha-5," the MeCP2 gene, which controls anxiety behaviors, does not enter the nucleus of the nerve cells that control anxiety, leading to its reduction.
The anti-anxiety drugs available today are limited in their efficacy or can cause significant side effects. The results of the Israeli research may enable the development of new drugs that overcome these limitations.
The researchers have already identified several molecules that affect the neural machinery revealed in the study and may therefore be used as drugs.
For example, they found out why drugs for other diseases reduce anxiety, such as fingolimod (for multiple sclerosis), due to a similar process tested in mice.
The findings also shed new light on rare genetic diseases characterized by mutations in the MeCP2 gene. Identifying precise mechanisms responsible for the gene's entry into the nuclei of the nerve cells may in the future enable the development of drugs for these diseases.