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Clinical implications of studying social behavior in voles

 

Narrator:        This is Science Today. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, recently uncovered a number of genes that influence certain types of male and female behaviors in mice. The discovery revealed that some components of sex-specific behaviors are controlled at the genetic level. Study leader Nirao Shah is now using the same approach to understand social attachment behaviors in voles.

Shah:              If you separate a bonded pair, they show separation anxiety-type behaviors, they have depressed immunity, they have poor wound healing, all sorts of things that you would see in human populations.

Narrator:        Shah says the clinical importance of studying these social attachment behaviors in voles is that in many human illnesses, such as autism, there's a big deficiency in forming social attachments.

Shah:              So, given the genetic conservation between voles and mice and humans the hope is that if we can study this in voles we might shed some light on attachment behaviors in humans and health and disease and even perhaps provide a model organism for testing drugs to treat these conditions in humans.

Narrator:        For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.