I wasn't sure where to post this... please move top appropriate section, if this isn't it. http://www.aolnews.com/science/article/ ... s/19343100
(Feb. 3) – If your dog seems to exhibit time-consuming, repetitive behaviors, new research suggests it might actually suffer from a mental illness. A study published in the January issue of Molecular Psychiatry reports that scientists have located a gene for obsessive-compulsive disorder among certain canine breeds.
OCD affects around 2 percent of people, and the canine research suggests that some breeds, especially Dobermans and bull terriers
, are at an exceptionally high risk. Up to 70 percent of some litters seem to have obsessive tendencies.
For more than 10 years, behaviorists at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University collected blood samples from Dobermans that exhibited compulsive behavior, like blanket-sucking, as well as from unaffected, healthy Dobermans. In 2001, they teamed up with the Medical Genetics Program at University of Massachusetts Medical School for a widespread "genome association" study.
The team found that dogs exhibiting more compulsive behaviors, like chasing their tails or sucking their own body parts, were more likely to express a CDH2 gene. That gene, located on chromosome 7, mediates communication between neurons in the brain.
And what we now know about dogs might help explain certain human disorders, like OCD and autism spectrum disorder, by examining whether the same CDH2 gene is also implicated. Dr. Nicholas Dodman, a professor at Cummings and the study's lead author, said the CDH2 gene is located in the same area – the brain's hippocampus – in humans and dogs.
Dodman has been working with canine obsessive-compulsive symptoms since the early '80s, but said he needed technology to catch up before he could confirm his suspicions that dogs and people might share a common illness.
"I've had a sneaking suspicion for decades," Dodman said. "Now, we've finally established an incredibly important finding." He predicts that the canine-human link could yield preventive medicine and better treatment for obsessive disorders in both species.
Other experts are cautiously optimistic. "It's certainly true we have basically the same gene in us, so it's an intriguing lead, but there's a lot more work that has to be done to see if this particular finding is relevant to human health and obsessive- compulsive disorder," Dr. Michael Slifer, an assistant professor of human genetics and genomics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, told HealthDay.
Silfer also cautioned that the CDH2 gene might not have as intense an impact on humans, because if it did, researchers would already have found it.
We'll know soon enough. The National Institutes of Mental Health is conducting its own study, looking for CDH2 in blood samples of human OCD patients. Dodman expects to receive the results any day.
"This would be the first confirmed psychiatric gene in humans," he said. "We're waiting with bated breath."
Dodman and his fellow researchers are also awaiting grants for an institute devoted to the study of "translational research" – comparing genetic information between animals and humans – in an attempt to solve more medical mysteries.