Solving the riddle of autism genetics will require looking beyond the growing list of candidate genes to epigenetics and personalized medicine.
Researchers have developed a method to fix and stain intact mouse brains for electron microscopy, according to a study published 21 October in Nature Methods. The technique allows them to trace the paths of neurons as they project across the brain.
An autism-linked protein called CASPR2 promotes the development of dendrites, the bushy structures atop neurons that receive signals from other neurons, according to a study published 30 October in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Lowering CASPR2 levels leads to sparse dendrites and few synapses, the junctions between neurons.
Researchers are assembling a virtual reconstruction of the brain by piecing together simulations of thousands of neurons, they reported 16 October in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They used this model to show that most junctions between neurons form randomly and not as the result of chemical signals.
As the central organ regulating maternal-fetal interactions, the placenta is perfectly positioned to mediate environmental and genetic risk factors during prenatal development. It may also relay risk factors for autism to the fetus, says Paul Patterson.
A new tool can sort through a population of mutant nematodes and identify those with altered neuronal connections, according to a study published 19 August in Nature Methods.
An autism-linked mutation in the signaling protein EPAC2 alters the shape of neuronal branches, according to a study published in the June issue of PLoS Biology.
Abnormalities in the connections between language-related brain regions are similar in people with autism and those with tuberous sclerosis, a genetic disorder characterized by benign tumors throughout the brain and body, according to a paper published 1 June in Cerebral Cortex.
TAOK2, a gene in the autism-associated 16p11.2 chromosomal region, is part of a signaling pathway that builds neuronal connections during development, according to a study published 10 June in Nature Neuroscience.
Losing one or both copies of TSC1, one of the two genes responsible for tuberous sclerosis complex, in specific cells of the cerebellum can trigger several autism-like behaviors in mice, according to research published 1 July in Nature.