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Spectrum: Autism Research News

Community Newsletter: Hormonal gene regulation, gene-disease links, INSAR

by  /  8 May 2022
Speech bubble formed by a network of communication

Illustration by Laurène Boglio

Autism researchers were atwitter this week over a “magnum opus on hormonal regulation of gene expression in the brain” published in Nature. “Our findings have significant implications for how sex differences are considered,” tweeted lead investigator Jessica Tollkuhn, assistant professor of neuroscience at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York.

In a thread more than 20 tweets long, Tollkuhn walked through the methods — including “the truly heroic experiment of capturing ER-alpha binding on P0; my personal science holy grail” — as well as the main findings, which suggest that “hormone receptors provide advantageous plasticity to vertebrates by coordinating gene expression within and across brain regions (and the body) to define context-specific behavioral states.”

A must read,” tweeted Rachel Buckley, assistant professor of neurology at Harvard University.

“Lovely work from the Tollkuhn lab and a terrific victory lap for the @brunogegenhuber’s PhD. Well played!” tweeted Gordon Fishell, professor of neurobiology at Harvard University.

“Woah!” tweeted Armin Raznahan, section chief of developmental neurogenomics at the National Institute of Mental Health, throwing in some appropriate emojis.

Others shared flame emojis, wows and congratulations. “The revolution in neuroendocrinology has begun,” tweeted Troy Roepke, associate professor of animal sciences at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Elsewhere on Twitter, Zornitza Stark, a consultant in pediatric genetics at Victorian Clinical Genetics Services at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Victoria, Australia, shared her delight to be part of a global effort to “harmonise the evidence for gene-disease associations.”

The Gene Curation Coalition to which she belongs published a new paper in Genetics in Medicine, introducing standardized terms, plus a database of 4,569 genes and select gene-disease validity assertions.

“Launched in December 2020, the GenCC database is, conceptually, a similar resource to ClinVar, but for gene-disease assertions instead of variant-disease assertions,” the researchers wrote.

And the #INSAR2022 tweets have started to trickle in. Among them, Claire Harrop, research assistant professor in developmental psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, encouraged people to support her graduate student, Orla Putnam, next week as she presents — at the exact same time Harrop will be presenting.

Noah Sasson, professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Dallas, tweeted about a panel he is chairing on 13 May about double empathy.

Diondra Straiton, a graduate student in clinical psychology at Michigan State University, shared a ‘save the date’ for an INSAR special-interest group meeting on advancing anti-racist autism research.

Rosa Hoekstra, reader in global perspectives on neurodevelopmental disorders at King’s College London in the United Kingdom, tweeted about the challenges researchers from low- and middle-income countries face to attend the meeting.

And the National Council for Severe Autism tweeted about a special-interest group on addressing challenging behaviors 13 May.

As always, visit Spectrum’s conference page to follow our coverage of the meeting next week.

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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