It is estimated that three to six out of every 1,000 children in the United States have autism – and the number of diagnosed cases is rising.
Autism is one of a group of series developmental problems called autism spectrum disorders (ASD) that appear in early childhood, usually before age 3. Through symptoms and severity vary, all autism disorders affect a child's ability to communicate and interact with others.
It's not clear whether this is due to better detection and reporting of autism, a real increase in the number of cases, or both.
That's why researchers at Case Western Reserve University, led by Gary Landreth, a professor of neurosciences and neurology at the School of Medicine, have pulled together a number of recent findings that link a common genetic pathway with a number of human syndromes and a newly-recognized genetic form of autism, publishing them in the January 29, 2009, issue of the prestigious journal Neuron.
Landreth, whose research team is made up of partners from the Cole Eye Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center and the University of Pennsylvania, says his lab in particular has been researching the class of enzymes called ERKs (extracellular signal regulated kinase), which are the central elements of a major intracellular signal transduction pathway. His research team has found that in animal models the ERKs – known as ERK 1 and ERK 2 – are required for normal brain, heart and facial development.
This common genetic pathway that acts to regulate the ERK signaling cascade is particularly important in brain development, learning, memory and cognition. It has been recently reported that mutation or deletion of elements within this signaling pathway leads to developmental syndromes in humans that are associated with impaired cognitive function and autism.
According to Landreth, these syndromes, called neuro-craniofacial-cardiac syndromes (NCFCs), encompass a group of syndromes also typified by cardiac, craniofacial and neurological defects. Current research has found that they arise from mutations in the intracellular signaling pathway that regulates ERKs.
"Very recently it was discovered that 1 percent of autistic children have either a loss or duplication in a region of Chromosome 16 that encompasses the gene for ERK 1," said Landreth, who also serves as director of the School of Medicine's Alzheimer's Research Laboratory. "What no one else realized is that the autistic children also have craniofacial and cardiac defects just like those children with NCFC syndromes."
Thus, Landreth says, mutations within the ERK signaling pathway appears to be a common cause for NCFC syndromes and those children with autism due to genetic changes in chromosome 16.
"Unexplained is why loss of ERK 1 is associated with autism and other ERK pathway mutations cause mental retardation and similar diseases," he said. "Our contribution to the autism story is that we recognized it was just like the NCFC syndromes and we are hypothesizing that they all arise from defects within a single genetic pathway."
Laura Massie | EurekAlert!
Further reports about: > ASD > Autism > ERK > ERK signaling cascade > NCFC > NCFC syndromes > Neuron > autism spectrum disorders > chromosome 16 > extracellular signal regulated kinase > genetic pathway > heart and facial development > intracellular signal transduction pathway > signaling pathway > single genetic pathway
Scientists uncover the role of a protein in production & survival of myelin-forming cells
19.07.2018 | Advanced Science Research Center, GC/CUNY
NYSCF researchers develop novel bioengineering technique for personalized bone grafts
18.07.2018 | New York Stem Cell Foundation
A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.
The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...
For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.
Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...
Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...
Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....
13.07.2018 | Event News
12.07.2018 | Event News
03.07.2018 | Event News
20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences
20.07.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences