October 30, 2017

Studies of Dogs, Mice, and People Provide Clues to OCD

Scientists have been attempting to identify specific genes that influence OCD risks in humans. Recently, a research group has been using a genomic approach that incorporates the genomes of dogs, mice and people. Using this method, they found four genes that control synapses and connected them to OCD.

Scientists Karlsson and Lindblad-Toh have been studying dogs for years, searching for genes that are involved in compulsive behaviors such as repetitive grooming or tail chasing. The dog breeds studied include the Doberman Pinscher, German Shepard, Shetland Sheepdog, and the Jack Russell Terrier. The researchers in this current study used Karlsson and Lindblad-Toh’s data to see if the genetic links to OCD that they found in dogs would correlate to other species. The dog OCD data was combined with genetic studies of compulsively grooming mice and humans with OCD or autism spectrum disorder(ASD) (both conditions associated with repetitive behaviors).

The researchers focused on 608 genes (263 genes from dog and mice studies, 196 from ASD studies, and 216 from OCD studies). They sequenced these 608 genes, along with the genes surrounding non-coding DNA, in 592 people with OCD and 560 people without. In people with OCD, genetic variants frequently appeared around four genes. These variants seem to effect brain synapses and are active in a brain circuit linked to OCD.

The discoveries in this area demonstrate that the domestic dog can aid in a greater understanding of our own species. Karlsson is now recruiting dogs for a NIH-funded project called Darwin’s Dogs that is hoped to bring more insight in psychiatric and neurological diseases that appear in dogs and people.

Dr. Francis Collins, 2017. Studies of Dogs, Mice, and People Provide Clues to OCD. National Institutes of Health

Original Article: https://directorsblog.nih.gov/2017/10/24/studies-of-dogs-mice-and-people-provide-clues-to-ocd/#more-9267

Reviewed by: Katie Snodgrass