Autism gene study could expand treatment opportunities

JUPITER, Fla. – Researchers in Florida are expanding the understanding of some of the mechanisms involved in autism by zeroing in on genes that influence early brain growth.

Neuroscientist Dr. Damon Page and a team of scientists at Scripps Research in Jupiter have documented the impact of the loss of a gene called  Dryk1a on brain undergrowth, which is a factor in some children with autism.

They also found that an existing medication already approved for use in children showed benefit in mouse studies.

“These are really kind of early day studies, but we think that’s really promising because that’s correcting one of the major problems that is associated with Dyrk1a mutations,” Page said.

“For us, as researchers, it’s very important to understand the genetic and molecular events that are occurring and can lead to autism so that we can identify better therapeutics,” added Jenna Levy, a graduate student and first paper author.

The rates of diagnosis of autism are now around 1 in 59 children and at least 200 risk genes have been identified.

Meanwhile, researchers at the Indiana School of Medicine are shedding a new light on the biological basis for mood disorders which may lead to a blood test aimed at a more focused approach to treatment.

The study focused on developing a test that would use specific biomarkers associated with depression and bipolar disorder and match people with the right treatment.

Researchers said their work has paved the way for use in both clinical practice and new drug development.


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