A study of a rare form of epilepsy found in Amish groups adds heft to the idea that mTOR — a much-studied hub in a massive network of brain cell proteins — is an important biochemical player in autism.
Spectrum: Autism Research News
Rare or common, inherited or spontaneous, mutations form the core of autism risk.
Mice engineered to carry a well-known risk factor for schizophrenia show disruptions in the connections between two brain regions that coordinate memory and learning. And these disruptions directly cause problems with working memory — the ability to actively hold information and to recall that information to make a decision, according to a study published in Nature.
Microglia, brain cells that provide immune protection to neurons, may influence the onset and course of Rett syndrome, according to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
People with autism harbor more copy number variants (CNVs) — deletions or duplications of large chunks of DNA — compared with controls, but only in the protein-coding regions of the genome, researchers reported Wednesday in Nature. The study also pinpointed more than 100 new risk genes for autism.
A new model that compares how the same genes behave in different organisms could help researchers identify previously unknown candidates for diseases such as autism. The model, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, takes advantage of the genetic overlap between humans and simpler organisms to discover genes associated with complex diseases.
FMRP, the protein missing in fragile X syndrome, is needed for the birth of new neurons, for regulating the translation of RNA into protein, and for maintaining the structural integrity of spiny neuronal projections, according to several new studies.
Chromosomal microarray analysis, which screens the entire genome for tiny blips in the sequence, should be the first genetic test performed when diagnosing autism, says a consortium of clinical geneticists. The recommendation comes on the heels of a study that found the test is three times more effective at spotting autism variants than are standard clinical methods.