Authors: Ebony Torrington (Future Science Group)
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, one in 59 children are affected by autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the USA. Three studies presented at SfN Neuroscience 2019 (19–23 October 2019, Chicago, IL, USA) reveal advancements in autism research that could improve early intervention and treatment.
“These studies offer significant new directions for the study of ASD and have the potential to expand our understanding of the complexities of the condition in the brain,” commented press conference moderator, Manny DiCicco-Bloom (Rutgers University Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, NJ, USA). “Continuing to move forward on research like this helps move the needle towards screening of drugs and clinical trials for those suffering from these disorders.”
Cerebellar white matter changes linked to pre-term ASD risk in mice
In one study presented at the conference, researchers generated a mouse model with the gene encoding the synthesis enzyme for allopregnanolone (Akr1c14) deleted, in order to assess the effect of allopregnanolone on brain development and long-term behavior. Allopregnanolone is a hormone produced by the placenta that has been implicated in signal transmission in the brain.
The research team discovered that allopregnanolone deficiency is related to abnormalities in sex-specific white matter in the cerebellum. In male mice, two characteristics of ASD were observed: repetitive behavior and sociability deficit.