By introducing a gene mutation in mice, investigators have created what they believe to be the first accurate model of autism not associated with a broader neuropsychiatric syndrome, according to research presented at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology annual meeting.
This animal model could help researchers better understand abnormal brain function in autistic humans, which could help them identify and improve treatment strategies. Broader neuropsychiatric conditions include Fragile X, the most common cause of inherited mental impairment, and Rett Syndrome, a childhood neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by normal early development followed by slowed brain and head growth, seizures, and mental retardation.
Autism is a neuropsychiatric disorder characterized by repetitive behaviors and by impairment in social interactions and communication skills. These symptoms can coexist with either enhanced or decreased cognitive abilities and skills.
“Prior to this study we knew next to nothing about the mechanisms of autism in the brain,” says study researcher Craig M. Powell, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of neurology and psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. “With this research, we can study changes in the brain that lead to autistic behaviors and symptoms, which may help us understand more about progression and treatment of the disorder.”
The research team, led by Thomas Südhof, M.D., professor and chairman of neuroscience at UT Southwestern, replaced the normal mouse neurologin-3 gene with a mutated neuroligin-3 gene associated with autism in humans. By doing so, the team was able to create a gene in the mice that is similar to the human autism disease gene. While the result amounted to a very small change in their genetic makeup, it perfectly mimicked the same small change occurring in some patients with human autism.
Dr. Powell studied the genetically altered mice and found that, when examined in behavioral tests that may reflect key signs of autism, they showed decreased social interaction with other mice; other traits, such as anxiety, coordination and pain sensitivity, were unaffected. These social interaction deficits, Dr. Powell says, are hallmark features of human autism. In addition, the mice showed enhanced spatial learning abilities, which may resemble the enhanced cognitive abilities in autistic savants (people who have a severe developmental or mental handicap as well as extraordinary mental abilities).
“These findings could be especially helpful in identifying novel treatment approaches. We already know that inhibitory chemical synaptic transmission from one neuron to the next is increased in this mouse model. Now we can test drugs that decrease this effect directly in the mice and ask whether this reverses their social interaction deficits,” Dr. Powell says. “For now, the mainstay of autism treatment is still behavioral therapy. The earlier we can get patients involved with behavioral interventions, the better off people with autism will be.” Dr. Powell adds that the model gives researchers insight into mouse brains which share important parallels with brains of living humans, which can only be studied in limited ways with the use of new brain imaging tools.
Sharon Reis | EurekAlert!
Researchers simplify tiny structures' construction drip by drip
12.11.2018 | Princeton University, Engineering School
Mandibular movement monitoring may help improve oral sleep apnea devices
06.11.2018 | Elsevier
Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.
Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure
Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
23.10.2018 | Event News
16.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
16.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
16.11.2018 | Life Sciences