Daily Israel Report

Tel Aviv Mice May Hold Key to Healthy Brain

Researchers in Tel Aviv have created a strain of mice that they hope will unlock the secrets to various brain ailments.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 7/16/2010, 9:40 AM / Last Update: 7/16/2010, 10:07 AM

TAU

Researchers at Tel Aviv University have created a strain of mice designed to help scientists understand various brain diseases. The mice, created through genetic engineering, suffer from Vanishing White Matter (VWM), a neurological disease that until now has remained incurable.

The disease, most often diagnosed in young children, is caused by a mutation in the elF2B enzyme. While the enzyme plays a part in vital functions throughout the body, mutations seem to primarily affect white matter in the brain, for reasons that are not yet clear.

The development of mice suffering from VWM is a breakthrough that researchers have been hoping for. The mice will allow scientists to perform aggressive research that cannot be carried out on human beings. They hope to answer questions regarding early symptoms of the disease, factors that can trigger the disease or cause symptoms to become more severe, and understanding the molecular processes behind the illness in hopes of finding a cure.

In order to create mice with VWM, scientists altered the gene responsible for elF2B production in such a way that the mice have only 80% of the normal level of the enzyme. The TAU research team that successfully manipulated the genes was led by Professor Orna Elroy-Stein.

The mice with lower enzyme levels were then put under MRI observation, allowing researchers to see which specific areas of the brain were affected and when.

Scientists found that the mice suffering low elF2B levels were unable to repair damage to the white matter of the brain, while mice with normal enzyme levels repaired brain damage over the course of several weeks.

Research into disorders affecting white brain matter is expected to help scientists understand ailments other than VWM, including Multiple Sclerosis.