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Spectrum: Autism Research News

News The latest developments in autism research.

Community Newsletter: Tracking cellular origins, autism acceptance, social-communication gains

by  /  24 April 2022
Speech bubble formed by a network of communication

Illustration by Laurène Boglio

This week, our social-media notifications flagged a host of new paper alerts and requests — for applications and opinions.

Neighboring cells in the human cerebral cortex have different embryonic origins, tweeted Joseph Gleeson, professor of neurosciences at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), about his new publication in Nature.

The findings, derived from an analysis of genetic mosaicism in neurotypical postmortem brain tissue, reveal the “clonal distributions of neocortical development like the left-right split as the first event,” wrote study co-investigator Xiaoxu Yang, a postdoctoral scholar in neurosciences at UCSD.

The most striking finding, Gleeson wrote, “was that the cells of the two hemispheres are much more distinct than cells on the same hemisphere.”

Gleeson offers a video introduction to the paper, Yang also tweeted.

And Jonathan Sebat, professor of psychiatry and cellular and molecular medicine at UCSD, retweeted Yang’s tweet quoting from the paper.


Noah Sasson, professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Dallas, tweeted another new-paper alert, describing a program to teach high-schoolers about autism. About half of the 151 students he and his colleagues assessed had “no known personal contact with autistic people” prior to the study, and teenagers who rated themselves the most socially competent had the least favorable impressions of autistic adults.

After the educational presentation, students expressed greater interest in interacting with adults on the spectrum — an endorsement of the double-empathy framework, Sasson says: “Perceptions of autistic people are not simply a product of their own characteristics but also those of the people evaluating them.”


The journal Autism highlighted a new paper from Connie Kasari, professor of human development and psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and graduate student Jonathan Panganiban about predicting language gains in autistic children who use JASPER, a social-communication intervention Kasari created. The model they built, with predictive accuracy of 70 percent, suggests that children with more diverse play tend to be ‘super responders’ to JASPER, whereas those with less play diversity and delayed fine motor skills are less likely to make expressive language gains.


Coming on the heels of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee meeting last week, Joshua Gordon, director of the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, tweeted out to the online research community that his agency seeks a new national autism coordinator.


And Adriano Aguzzi, professor and director of the Institute of Neuropathology at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, boldly put a question to the science Twitterverse: Are patient-derived induced pluripotent stem-cell (iPSC) lines or base-edited cells from healthy controls better for modeling monogenic disease?

“Methinks the latter, by a large margin,” he wrote, asking not to be ‘canceled.’

Responders didn’t throw Aguzzi any shade but did shade the question: The possibilities don’t seem mutually exclusive, tweeted Bio-brain_2035, suggesting editing a patient-derived iPSC line back to its wildtype form if possible.

And the Coleman lab at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom asked: Are there truly monogenic conditions, with no genetic modifiers?

Only in an organism with a one-gene genome, Aguzzi joked back.

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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TAGS:   autism, community