Autism spectrum disorders affect billions of people all over the world and are still under heavy research. Many specialists tried to identify the true causes of autism and find some treatments to alleviate the patients’ suffering, but to this day, nobody could pinpoint the specific triggers, nor provide the world with 100% full proof therapies.
Some of the most debilitating aspects of autism are induced by the cognitive – communication – behavioral triad of impairments. To some degree, all these components are affected at different levels of severity in almost all patients. A new study sheds light on autism and, more to the point, on the repetitive behaviors specific to autistic patients, opening the doors to more advanced genetic research in the future.
A team of neuroscientists at NYU Langone Medical Center reported recently the results of a study they conducted on mice lacking a specific protein gene called Cntnap4. Simply put, missing this gene means missing the protein. Mice not presenting the protein or presenting it in lower levels than normal, also presented abnormal levels of two essential chemicals which are vital to the optimal function of our brains: dopamine (the neural chemical responsible with the pleasure sensations) and GABA (the substance that lowers down our neural activity and regulates muscle tone). The mice that showed imbalances in these substance levels also showed autistic – like behaviors, displayed as following:
[quote]Mice that lacked the gene for this critical brain protein were found to obsessively groom their fellow animals’ fur into mohawk-like styles, suggesting a link between genetics, brain function and autistic behaviors[/quote]
Now as funny as it is to see with your own eyes mohawk – like mice hairdos, the link between the missing gene and the development of repetitive, autistic – like behaviors cannot be neglected. Finding reliable results to support the theory of genetic mutations as the main cause for autism is a hard feat for scientists, but not an-impossible-to-reach goal.
Past research involved other genetic theories and potential treatments. Genome mapping is a science with a mind – blowing potential. However, regarding autism as a spectrum disorder, scientists have been still in the dark so far. Now that this new study sheds light on autism, we are in support of the future studies trying to finally answer so many questions and actually find a cure. According to doctor Gordon Fishell,
There have been many candidate genes implicated in contributing to autism, but animal and human studies to identify their action have so far not led to any therapies.”Our research suggests that reversing the disease’s effects in signaling pathways like GABA and dopamine are potential treatment options