New research conducted at the Havard school of medical research at McLean Hospital have isolated a cluster of genes that are specifically linked to autism.
The cluster named EphB are predominantly essential in the wiring of the brain during the development of a foetus. A mutation in these cells causes mis-wiring commonly contributing to the symptoms of autism.
Christopher Cowan, HMS associate professor of psychiatry at McLean Hospital said:
“Using animal models, we were able to see that EphB is required for normal brain development. Mutations in EphB that compromise its function led to abnormal connections between key brain regions involved in processing of sensory information.”
The findings were published on January 22 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the abstract can be found here.
Researchers looked closely at this family of genes in animals, as it has been thought by scientists in recent years to be the gene cluster responsible for certain developmental conditions in humans. They looked specifically at the communication between the parts of the brain responsible for processing information and making sense of the outside world.
Dr Cowan said:
“Some individuals with autism show abnormalities in sensory perception and processing, including touch, sound and vision.
“We found that EphB genes are essential for normal wiring of at least two key parts of the brain that process sensory information, particularly regions involved in touch and sound. Our findings suggest that defects in early brain wiring might underlie at least some of the sensory-associated symptoms found in individuals with autism spectrum disorders.”
Further investigation is in the pipeline, and Autism Daily Newscast will keep you informed of any further developments.