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Spectrum: Autism Research News

Community Newsletter: Assembloids, autism-ADHD overlap, calcium signaling

by  /  2 October 2022
An illustration of scientists looking at a strand of DNA.
Malte Mueller / Getty Images

How do the hundreds of genes associated with autism shape specific stages of human brain development? Sergiu Pasca, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University in California, tweeted a link to his new preprint, in which he and his colleagues used “a bold approach … to map 425 genes on interneuron dev stages” to answer that question.

Pasca and his colleagues integrated a previously developed stem-cell-based platform with CRISPR screening, revealing a surprising contribution from the endoplasmic reticulum, an organelle responsible for protein and lipid synthesis.

Mable Lam, a research fellow at Stanford University, called it “such a cool screen that uncovered an unexpected role for endoplasmic reticulum dynamics.”

Ambrin Fatima, assistant professor at Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan, called the research a “massive work on the role of NDD genes in brain using assembloids.”

“This work is important in understanding the pathophysiology of human disease, which will ultimately help develop targeted treatments!” tweeted the KCNC1 Foundation, a nonprofit organization in Toronto, Canada.

Cedric Boeckx, research professor at the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies in Barcelona, Spain, described the research as a “massive work … exploiting the power of [brain] #organoids (assembloids) to highlight the role of interneuron development in neurodevelopmental disorders.”

Another gene study that caught our attention came from Manuel Mattheisen, associate professor of psychiatry at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. He and his colleagues “found that individuals diagnosed with both ASD and ADHD are double-burdened with genetic risk for both disorders.”

The preprint serves up “novel insights into the biological foundation for developing just one or both of the disorders and for driving the psychopathology discriminatively towards either ADHD or ASD.”

Veera Rajagopal, a scientist at the biotechnology company Regeneron Pharmaceuticals in Tarrytown, New York, tweeted that the analysis was “another fascinating and important work from the iPSYCH cohort on the shared and differential genetic architecture of ADHD and ASD.”

“Interested in shared and differentiating genetics between autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder?” tweeted Bru Cormand Rifa, professor of genetics at the University of Barcelona in Spain and an investigator on the study. “Check out our new preprint!”

Lastly, Georgia Panagiotakos, a Sandler Fellow in biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), tweeted a link to her new review “describing how calcium directs neurodevelopmental events in the cortex.”

“Fantastic read for everyone interested in brain development!” tweeted Tom Nowakowski, a developmental neurobiologist at UCSF.

“Looks like a lot of cool membrane proteins are involved!” tweeted Willow Coyote-Maestas, an affiliate in James Fraser’s lab at UCSF.

Dan O’Shea, a neuroscientist and engineer at Stanford University, offered congratulations, tweeting, “These diagrams are incredible.”

That’s it for this week’s Community Newsletter! If you have any suggestions for interesting social posts you saw in the autism research sphere, feel free to send an email to [email protected].

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