Mice with symptoms that mimic Bardet-Biedl Syndrome (BBS) have difficulty with learning and generating new neurons in the hippocampus. However, according to a new study by Thomas Pak, Calvin Carter, and Val Sheffield of the University of Iowa, published April 22nd in the journal PLOS Genetics, these mental defects can be successfully treated with lithium.
BBS is a rare genetic disorder that causes intellectual disability, vision loss and obesity, and sometimes kidney problems and extra fingers and toes. It is one of several ciliopathies, which are diseases that stem from defective cilia — tiny, finger-like projections on the surface of cells that play important roles in moving fluids, sensing the environment and signaling between cells. Pak, Carter, Sheffield and colleagues wanted to learn more about how ciliopathies cause intellectual disability, so they studied a type of mouse with the same symptoms as people with BBS.