Scientists took “bipolar mice” and studied their poor mousy brains under a super microscope that can see at the molecular, nano level. (An infographic on the nano scale to help you visualize) They found something kind of neat, little structures between the neurons, in the synapses. Surrounding the structures were high levels of a protein called Ankyrin-G.  ANK3 has a correlation with bipolar disorder, but no one new why or how. Now, they saw, with the super microscope, that the ANK3 forms in those little nanostructures, and it affects how the neurons communicate. 

So, if you think about it, scientists can see, with the super microscope, how potential drugs do things. They could also make nifty diagnostic tests for dead mice.


 the super microscope

And if I paid the $31 for the journal article, I might learn the answer to these questions.

  • How many bipolar mousy brains did they study? What did the control mousy brains look like?
  • Did they have the structures and no protein, or did they not have the structures at all?
  • The news articles (Science Daily and Northwestern University) said that the ANK3 gene was made in the structures and the ANK3 gene was in high concentration. This doesn’t make sense to me. I’ve always thought that genes code for proteins, so I’d expect there to be lots of the protein in and around the structures. The abstract on the original paper is correct, to my thinking, and refers to high concentrations of Ankyrin-G made from the ANK3 gene.

Ankyrin-G accumulates in dendritic spines when the spines enlarge (bottom), compared to control (top), shown using a new super-resolution imaging method. Ankyrin-G is a protein encoded by ANK3, a gene closely associated with bipolar disorder risk.