Autism Research: 31 Jan, 2014 Week In Review

Faulty gene respoadn-icon-298x300nsible for autism identified

TBR1 gene has been repeatedly found to be guilty in patients having Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). This gene is essential for regulating brain’s development. Disruption in its functions can hamper normal brain development and possibly lead to autism. A new research has been published in the journal Nature reiterating this fact. The research was conducted at the Institute of Molecular Biology of Academia Sinica, China. Dr. Hsueh Yi-ping has studied the TBR1 gene in great detail since many years.  The role of TBR1 gene in development of various parts of the brain like the amygdale has been known to scientists since long now but only recently has there been interest in its possible role in autism spectrum disorders.

The gene is a neuron-specific gene. It controls almost fifteen other neurons i.e. nerve cells. Losing a particular protein can lead to disconnection between neural circuits. It could also disrupt the circuits transmitting information between the two parts of the amygdala. Since, so far, there are no clear cut causes of autism known to the general masses, this new discovery could help. Patients can now undergo an MRI to check for any relevant genetic abnormalities. A further evaluation of the TBR1 gene could be done if any anomalies are detected on the MRI. The team of scientists also discovered that D-cycloserine can treat autism, at least in mice and could remedy neural circuit deficits.

 Gene family linked to autism, Harvard Medical School discovers

As reported in greater length earlier this week by Autism Daily Newscast, a groundbreaking research undertaken by Harvard Medical School has found a gene family that can be traced down to autism. The research team at McLean Hospital found that EphB mutations can lead to altered brain circuits that connect regions concerned with processing sensory data. They found that EphB is necessary for proper intra-brain connectivity and mutations in the EphB gene family could produce autism symptoms like hypersensitivity to noises, etc. the findings were reported at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The team found that EphB family genes are particularly important in processing sound and touch information. This could lead to important developments in the future in correcting how such sensory data is utilized by children having autism spectrum disorders.

Robots trained to diagnose autism in Croatia

A new project by the University of Zagreb, Croatia is bringing immense joy to children with autism who are involved in the project. The university’s Faculty of Education and Rehabilitation Sciences and Faculty of Electronics and Computer Sciences have collaborated to give birth to robots that can assist clinicians in diagnosing autism. The robot named Rene has produced very positive reactions in autistic children that have been involved with them on the project. The French robot is being used by Croatian researchers as a diagnostic tool. It is equipped with a mike, camera, and speakers and can record minute details about children that humans can easily miss. It can record the number of times the child makes eye contact, initiates communications, etc. With involvement of larger number of children, the data could lead to astounding results and help develop a standard, scientific diagnostic protocol for children worldwide. You can read more on this story by Autism Daily Newscast here.