A Pre-Clinical Model for Tics

Grant Type
Grant Year
Institution Location
Institution Organization Name
Washington University
Investigators Name
Mink, Jonathan, MD, PhD

Our team aims to develop a realistic animal model of tics, the hallmark symptom of Tourette Syndrome (TS). Such a model would be invaluable to scientists who are trying to better understand this disorder. It also would provide a way to test potential and perhaps more effective treatments. Although rats can be used to study some aspects of TS, a primate model is needed because rats lack the facial expressions and eye movements of humans. Also, the part of the brain that is involved in causing TS is organized differently in rats than in primates. One hypothesis is that TS may involve immune-system damage to the basal ganglia, six clusters of tissue deep within the brain. Therefore we will infuse parts of the basal ganglia of Rhesus monkeys with serum that contains antibodies against brain cells. The serum will come from children with the disorder. We hope that that monkeys will develop tics, and those that do not receive serum from children with TS will not. Our group will videotape the animals regularly before the intervention and over the following year. During each session, the animals will sit quietly in a chair for 5 minutes and then reach for pieces of fruit with either hand for 5 more minutes. Harvey S. Singer, M.D., professor of neurology and pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University, will evaluate the tapes, rating the presence or absence and intensity of tics during sitting and reaching activities. Also, he will provide the antibodies for infusion. The Washington University researchers will analyze the postures and trajectories of the limbs and individual joints during reaching, using reflective markers to make them visible to a sophisticated motion analysis system. We hypothesize that this analysis will show that the antibody infusion does not alter voluntary movement, which is not affected in people with Tourette Syndrome. In funding this research, the TSA will enable our team to gather sufficient data to enhance our chances to receive additional support from the National Institutes of Health for a more extensive study. Jonathan W. Mink, M.D., Ph.D. Washington University, St. Louis, MO Award: $39,985 Tourette Association of America Inc. – Research Grant Award 2000-2001