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Reversing autism 'at the flick of a switch'...

Discussion in 'Autism Spectrum News, Events and Research' started by AGXStarseed, Feb 18, 2016.

  1. AGXStarseed

    AGXStarseed Well-Known Member

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    (Not written by me)

    Reversing autism 'at the flick of a switch': 'Turning on' a single gene in mice has been found to reduce autistic behaviours
    • Around one per cent of people with autism lack the Shank3 gene
    • Mice without the gene show repetitive behaviour and avoid interaction
    • But turning on Shank3 in adult mice reversed some of these behaviours
    • The findings offer hope that symptoms in this subset of patients could one day be reduced using a similar targeted approach

    Just like flicking on a light switch, researchers have discovered they are able to reverse some of the behavioural symptoms associated with autism by tweaking genetic activity in mice.

    In a new study, scientists have announced a major breakthrough in treating the genetic cause of the spectral condition.

    They report that by switching on a single gene - found to be missing in a small proportion of people autism - they were able to reverse changes to the brain in animals with the condition.

    Autism is a complex spectrum of disorders caused by numerous underlying factors, but around one per cent of cases are caused by a missing gene called Shank3.

    This gene is critical in the early development of the brain and, when missing, leads to many of the symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorders, including problems with social interactions and repetitive behaviors.

    Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that in mice lacking the gene, switching it back on later in life could reverse some of the autism-like behaviors in the animals.

    According to the team, the findings show that the brain may be capable of adapting to genetic changes even after it is fully developed and can make and break connections.

    It also provides hope that some of the symptoms in this subset of patients with autism could one day be reduced using a similar targeted approach.

    ‘This suggests that even in the adult brain we have profound plasticity to some degree,’ Professor Guoping Feng, a neuroscientist at MIT who led the study, told MIT News.

    ‘There is more and more evidence showing that some of the defects are indeed reversible, giving hope that we can develop treatment for autistic patients in the future.’

    Shank3 produces a protein which plays a role in helping brain cells communicate with each other and helps organize other cells in the brain.

    The MIT team bred mice which lacked the gene during their development.

    This caused changes to how their brains were wired and resulted in behavioral changes – they were less likely to interact and showed repetitive behaviors, such as repeatedly wiping their faces.

    But when Shank3 was switched back on in the adult mice, it reversed many of the behaviors.

    Mice were seen to interact more with other cage mates and showed less repetitive grooming behavior.

    Some of the behaviors remained, with mice still showing some anxiety as well as issues with motor skills.

    But when the gene was switched on earlier, when the mice were just 20 day old, these were found to improve.

    While the technique is far off from being used to treat people with this rare genetic cause of autism, the approach of identifying which brain pathways are affected could lead to new treatments for those with the spectrum condition.

    'Some circuits are more plastic than others,' explained Professor Feng.

    'Once we understand which circuits control each behavior and understand what exactly changed at the structural level, we can study what leads to these permanent defects, and how we can prevent them from happening.'

    He added: 'It’s important in the future to identify what sub-type of neurons are defective and what genes are expressed in these neurons, so we can use them as a target without affecting the whole brain.'

    The findings are published in Nature.

    The latest findings follow in the wake of research that showed reversal of brain changes of mice in the womb.

    Scientists in New York found that blocking signalling molecules in unborn mice restored normal brain structure in the pups.

    However, unlike the previous research, the MIT team was able to reverse some of the symptoms in adult mice.

    Scientists have developed a number of animal models that are helping to provide insight into how to unlock the brains of people with autism.

    Mice have been the ‘go to’ animal model for a number of years, with a numbers of 'knock outs' - which have specific genes turned off - used to study the effect of individual genetic factors on the condition.

    But more recently, a team in China developed transgenic monkeys which display symptoms of autism.

    The 'transgenic' macaques behaved similarly to humans afflicted with autism, the team wrote -making repetitive gestures, and displaying anxiety and poor social interaction.

    This meant they could serve as a reliable animal model for researching the causes of, and possible cures for, autism in humans - a feat welcomed by other specialists not involved in the study.



    SOURCE: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencet...gle-gene-mice-reduce-autistic-behaviours.html
     
  2. unsurewhattoname

    unsurewhattoname Well-Known Member

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    Interesting the brain readjusted. See if someone can do the same again. If they can, that implies that, in mice at least, the brain can rewire itself, does it not? Still, that'd only change 1% of autistic people, the other 99% it's something else. And even then it's a partial change if done in adulthood. And that's only if it works in humans. Still cool though. Maybe autism really can be cured, along with other neurological disorders.
     
  3. AGXStarseed

    AGXStarseed Well-Known Member

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    If something like this got rid of the deficits in Autism but didn't 'remove' it completely then I may be interested. It would most likely be of benefit to those who are more severely affected by Autism.

    Needless to say, something like this makes me think of the film A Clockwork Orange, where the main character - an ultra-violent sociopath named Alex - is 'cured' with a questionable aversion therapy called the Ludovico treatment.
    The treatment succeeds in modifiying his behaviour and making Alex unable to cope with violence - to the point where he is unable to fight back against an actor who pretends to insult and attack him. However, he is also unable to enjoy sex (vomiting at the sight of a scantily clad woman) or enjoy music by his favorite composer Ludwig Van Beethoven.
    Despite protests that the treatment has robbed him of his free will (the quote from the movie being "He ceases to be a wrongdoer. He ceases also to be a creature capable of moral choice"), it's made clear that those in charge don't care about the ethics of what has been done to him.
     
  4. unsurewhattoname

    unsurewhattoname Well-Known Member

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    Me too. If it could remove the problems with communication and senses (so, the autism) but keep me being me I'd be interested. Of course if it was safe and everything, if there were risks to it or it was unknown what would happen I wouldn't want to. But if it was safe, I'd keep my interests (they don't impair me and I enjoy them), I'd keep my low social drive, but having good communication and normal senses I'd be able to live normally and I'd like that. I doubt this will be in our lifetime though, but you never know.