Tadpoles help San Diego researchers get insight into autism

CC BY-NC by C Simmons

Tadpoles are helping researchers at Brown University understand the mechanisms of autism.

The ‘tadpole model of autism‘ was presented to the  presented a tadpole model of autism at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego by Eric James GS of Brown University.

James and Arseny Khakhalin, a postdoctoral fellow, started studying tadpole autism in Associate Professor of Neuroscience Carlos Aizenman’s laboratory about a year ago. Tadpoles were used because of their cellular simplicity and autism is partly caused by the mis-wiring of electrical pathways at a cellular level.

The researchers are looking closer at the effect of Valporic Acid, a chemical used in treatments for Bi-Polar disorder, migraine and epilepsy on the construction of these cells.

The researchers hope to reverse the effects of VPA by manipulating proteins that are abnormally regulated in some developmental disorders.

By modelling autism in tadpoles, the researchers will better understand the mechanisms of the disorder. “If you did it, you can reverse it,” James said.

The research could lead to the development of drugs to counteract the mis-wiring of these cells.

McGill University Associate Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery Edward Ruthazer said in an interview with the Brown Herald:

“By applying the diverse tools for developmental analysis created in the Aizenman (lab) … we may now have the opportunity to investigate the mechanisms underlying (autism spectrum disorder) or schizophrenia at an unprecedented level of resolution.”