Autism spectrum disorder is caused by a variety of factors, both genetic and environmental. But a new study led by UCLA scientists provides further evidence that the brains of people with the disorder tend to have the same “signature” of abnormalities at the molecular level. The scientists analyzed 251 brain tissue samples from nearly 100 deceased people — 48 who had autism and 49 who didn’t. Most of the samples from people with autism showed a distinctive pattern of unusual gene activity. The findings, published online on December 5, 2016 in Nature, confirm and extend the results of earlier, smaller studies, and provide a clearer picture of what goes awry, at the molecular level, in the brains of people with autism. The Nature article is titled “Genome-Wide Changes in lncRNA, Splicing, and Regional Gene Expression Patterns in Autism.” “This pattern of unusual gene activity suggests some possible targets for future autism drugs,” said Dr. Daniel Geschwind, the paper’s senior author and UCLA’s Gordon and Virginia MacDonald Distinguished Professor of Human Genetics. “In principle, we can use the abnormal patterns we’ve found to screen for drugs that reverse them — and thereby hopefully treat this disorder.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1.5 percent of children in the U.S. have autism; the disorder is characterized by impaired social interactions and other cognitive and behavioral problems. In rare cases, the disorder has been tied to specific DNA mutations, maternal infections during pregnancy, or exposures to certain chemicals in the womb. But in most cases, the causes are unknown. In a much-cited study in Nature in 2011, Dr.
Login Or Register To Read Full Story