Protein deficiency may cause OCD, finds study

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common, chronic and long-lasting disorder that triggers uncontrollable thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions) and an urge to do them repeatedly. This disorder can prove to be a debilitating condition due to the persistence of anxious thoughts that makes a person repeat an action frequently that significantly affects his or her social and occupational life.

Some of the common compulsions witnessed among people suffering from OCD, include compulsive washing, repeated cleaning, checking, etc. due to the extreme fear of dirt, bacteria, etc. Though OCD can afflict anyone and cause a range of functional impairments, females are at a slightly higher risk of developing this disorder than men, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

Compared to other disorders, the symptoms of OCD interfere too acutely. Consequently, patients spend a large amount of time on such compulsive and recurring thoughts and obsessions. Despite a wealth of research on this subject, the exact causes of OCD have not yet been identified. It is believed to have a neurobiological basis and that an imbalance in neurotransmitters may be involved in triggering OCD.

Another school of thought believes that this problem is caused by a combination of neurobiological, genetic, behavioral, cognitive and environmental factors. However, one of the studies has identified a protein called SPRED2 that is responsible for triggering OCD. Moreover, neuroimaging studies have shown that the brain functions differently in people with this disorder.

Absence of SPRED2 activates the pathway responsible for triggering compulsions

The study led by Professor Kai Schuh and his team from the Julius-Maximilians-Universität (JMU) found that the absence of the protein SPRED2 can cause an overactive molecular signal pathway that causes OCD by propelling the brain to go into an overdrive. This research was published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry on Jan. 10, 2017 and conducted the entire experiment on mice.

This new research has narrowed down the list of possible risk factors causing OCD. The SPRED2 protein is commonly found throughout the body, but is particularly concentrated in the basal ganglia and amygdala regions of the brain where it inhibits a cell signal pathway called the Ras/ERK-MAP kinase cascade. However, the deficiency of lack of this protein causes the pathway to become too active, thereby creating obsessive worries and, in turn, the compulsive behaviors.

During this experiment, mice that were engineered to be deficient in SPRED2 behaved destructively toward themselves by grooming themselves to such an excessive extent that they inflicted facial lesions similar to the injuries found on extreme OCD sufferers on themselves. However, upon the administration of an inhibitor to control the overactive signal pathways, their destructive behaviors improved. The researchers believed that this study opens a whole new way at how OCD treatments could be targeted. It opens up the field to conduct new tests and explores other therapy options based on these findings.

For the treatment of OCD, antidepressants are found to be effective in reducing the symptoms. Interestingly, researchers feel that the existing drugs that are currently being used for fighting cancer and have already been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can also be used as the potential treatments for OCD. This is primarily because of the same hyperactive Ras/ERK-MAP kinase cascade that is responsible for triggering cancer. Hence, the treatment could also be the same. However, more study would be needed before fully applying such a treatment to OCD.

Seeking treatment is the right step to a better life

Anxiety takes many forms and OCD can be a particularly visible type of mental disorder. Usually, people suffering from OCD are plagued by the fears of germs or some kind of compulsive behavioral patterns. Until more research is conducted and definitive causes identified, treatment options usually fall under the wider umbrella of mental illnesses encompassing anxiety, depression and eating disorders. If left untreated, OCD can interfere with all aspects of life. Therefore, it is essential to ensure treatment on time for speedy recovery.

If you or your loved one is suffering from anxiety disorders, contact the Anxiety Disorder Treatment Arizona representatives to learn about the latest progress being made in the anxiety disorder treatment in Arizona. To locate the best anxiety disorder treatment centers in Arizona, call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-425-9317 or chat online with our experts.