New tools developed as part of the Human Microbiome Project could help researchers understand the role of microbes in autism.
Mice lacking the autism-associated gene SHANK2 show autism-like behaviors similar to those seen in mice lacking SHANK3, another member of the same gene family. But SHANK2 and SHANK3 mice have distinct alterations at neuronal junctions, according to a report published 29 April in Nature.
The past few years have seen an unprecedented number of clinical trials for experimental drugs to treat autism-related disorders, most notably for fragile X syndrome. But as the trials progress, scientists are calling for better methods to measure the drugs’ effectiveness.
Researchers have identified deletions in SHANK1 — the third member of a gene family that is closely linked to autism — in five men with the disorder, they reported 4 May in the American Journal of Human Genetics. This is the first study linking SHANK1 mutations to people with autism.
By manipulating the location of a protein that detects capsaicin, the molecule responsible for the burn in hot chili peppers, researchers can activate subpopulations of neurons and alter the behavior of mice. The results were published 20 March in Nature Communications.
Aripiprazole, a drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat irritability in children with autism, may also improve their overall health-related quality of life, according to a retrospective analysis of two clinical trials. The results were published 21 March in Clinical Therapeutics.
A certain type of bacteria is prevalent in the intestines of children who have both autism and gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms but absent in controls, according to a study published 10 January in mBio.
Autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder show genetic and neurobiological overlap, which may provide clues to the origin of both disorders, says Joel Nigg.