The effect of the gene ADNP on the brain of men and women and diseases such as autism and Alzheimer’s
Autism and Alzheimer’s are two diseases with significant medical and social implications. A study by Tel-Aviv University reveals that the activity of certain proteins in males and females can lead to different gender-specific tendencies towards these disorders.
These new findings present insights about the mechanisms of these diseases in both sexes. The findings may lead to the development of innovative drug therapies for treating autism or Alzheimer’s, that are gender specific.
ADNP is a vital neuroprotective protein that is frequent in people with autism and can be found in low levels in laboratory tests undergone by Alzheimer’s patients. Research showed that ADNP acts differently in male and female mice. Researchers showed that ADNP-altered mice (that had some of their ADNP removed for the experiment) acted differently, and lost their learning, memory, and cognitive abilities, based on communication with other mice in their environment.
Results of the research lead by Professor Illana Gozes, published in “Psychiatry Transitional”, can help conclude that the ADNP gene has a different effect on the brains of females and males, due to sex-specific genetic tendencies.
These results support the understanding that Alzheimer’s and autism appear in different prevalence among men and women. Alzheimer’s, for instance, is more common among women. The reasons for these differences are still unknown, but the new research may help pave the way for future discoveries in the field of genetics.
Researchers examined the mice’s reaction to certain odors, measured in two parameters including the function of the sense of smell, and this function in relation to memory. Significant differences were found between males and females in the different groups, with the males identifying objects by odor, unlike female mice. Researchers claim that if they understand how this gene acts in males and females, they can optimize drugs used in autism and Alzheimer therapy.
The gender factor and its effect on research results
During research, Professor Gozes and her team examined the behavior of male and female mice with normal and altered ADNP. Researchers assigned the mice to different challenges and stimuli and observed the social interactions between them. To do so, they removed one copy of the gene ADNP, that regulates over 400 types of protein involved in development. They then examined the reactions of the mice to familiar objects and odors, and to other mice.
Results showed sex-specific differences in the mice’s memory and learning abilities, that reflect the reaction of their hippocampus to the ADNP alteration. Male mice with altered ADNP showed memory impairments and object recognition deficiencies, whereas female ADNP-altered mice showed difficulty in adjusting to the company of other mice compared to the un-altered females. The males preferred specific mice, which shows memory deficiencies. This preference did not occur in other mice.
The uniqueness of this study
According to researchers involved in this study, these findings may help promote research on autism and Alzheimer’s, both highly researched topics in recent years. Gender influenced the ADNP expression, and this affected the chemical expression of the different neurological disorders in both genders.
The brains of male and female mice may look similar, but in fact are not as they seem. Different ADNP gene expressions in the two sexes may promote different behavior patterns and cognitive abilities. This research emphasizes the need for a separate analysis of information from men and women during clinical trials to find drug therapy that is sex specific.