In a study led by researchers at the lab of Lin Tian at the University of California, a new advancement as been made. As described in an article in Cell, National Institutes of Health, these researchers have transformed a bacterial protein into a tool that will help detect serotonin levels.
What is serotonin?
Serotonin is a pretty important hormone. It influences our mood, stabilises our feelings and has an effect on our well-being. It is also found to impact important activities like sleeping, eating and digestion.
As per the experiment conducted on mice, researchers could find out the various levels serotonin during stress, fear, sleep, social interactions and even tested the effect of various drugs. In in this experiment, scientists managed to transform a Venus fly-trap shaped, nutrient grabbing protein into a fluorescent sensor that lit up when it captured serotonin.
Previously, scientists had managed to turn bacterial protein into a sensor of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. However, with the help of artificial intelligence, they were able to convert it into a serotonin catcher.
Results and observations
The experiment observed a rise in serotonin levels when the mice were awake and a fall when they were asleep. They witnessed a further fall when the mice entered a deeper state of REM sleep. Experiments in petri dishes found that the changes could be detected when the serotonin was due to drugs like cocaine, MDMA and other antidepressants.
Future of mental disorders
The results of this experiment will pave the way for the future of mental health. It will help scientists understand the correlation between serotonin and our everyday lives. It will also help establish a link between the hormone and many psychiatric conditions.