New hope for anxiety disorders as scientists identify key protein

The findings of a new study could pave the way for new treatment for anxiety disorders.

This latest study by University of Bristol researchers has identified a specific protein that appears to be critically important in the manifestation of anxiety-like symptoms.

The protein’s normal function is to detect and respond to the neurotransmitter L-glutamate, one of the most important mammalian neurotransmitters – the chemicals that mediate communication between nerve cells in the brain and nervous system.

There are a number of subtypes of glutamate receptor proteins.  Researchers found an animal model that lacked one particular subtype, the mGlu2 receptor. Those that lacked this receptor displayed anxiety-like behaviours echoing symptoms of human anxiety disorders. Drugs that affect several types of mGlu receptors have demonstrated some success in clinical trials of treating anxiety.

These new findings are important as they allow future drug development to selectively target the mGlu2 receptor subtype, potentially increasing treatment efficacy and limiting unwanted side effects. Moreover, mGlu receptors are also implicated in other brain diseases.

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