A group of researchers has discovered a particular gene, called Shisa7, which plays an important role with regard to the regulation of inhibitory neural circuits and the sedative effects of certain anxiolytics based on benzodiazepines.
This means that the classic Valium, for example, used to treat things like anxiety, muscle spasms or even sleep disorders, does not work alone to calm the nerves but needs the important contribution of a gene that is defined in the press release as “sticky.”
In fact, prior to this study, it was thought that the benzodiazepines essentially worked by themselves to trigger the calming responses of the A GABA type receptors (GABAA). Experiments that Ling Gang Wu, senior researcher at the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and the Ictus (NINDS), and Ronald S. Petralia, of the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), showed that Shisa7 attaches directly to GABAA receptors accelerating responses and increasing their effectiveness in the presence of Valium.
“These results suggest that Shisa7 directly models inhibitory synaptic responses in a variety of conditions, including the presence of benzodiazepines,” reports Chris J. McBain, a researcher at the Enice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). The researchers carried out experiments on modified mice from which the Shisa7 gene was eliminated. These mice, after undergoing Valium injections, were not affected by any calming effect compared to the control group mice.
Furthermore, in other experiments, the researchers discovered that Shisa7 could also influence sleepiness levels and the hypnotic effects of benzodiazepines. Such discoveries could help in the development of new drugs or treatments aimed at GABAA receptors.