A recent study published in Molecular Cell focused on the lack of a single protein that may be a factor contributing to autism. Scientists at the University of Toronto made this startling discovery and are hopeful that the research can pave the way for newer treatments.
Autism spectrum disorder can be defined as a developmental disability that can result in significant social impairments, as well as behavioural and communication challenges.
The ways in which people with ASD communicate with each other are different; they also learn differently. Often, their behaviours can be quite unusual.
In some ways similar to other disabilities, autism can manifest at many different levels. It can either be mild or severe. Those with autism are individually unique. It is commonly said that no two autistic individuals have the same symptoms. Their abilities can vary from the highly gifted to the severely challenged.
Some individuals may need external support to carry out his/her daily activities, while on the other hand, some individuals’ challenges may be less significant or visible.
Boys are more prone to autism in comparison to girls, and it has been observed that one in every four individuals in the USA alone is diagnosed with autism.
Although early diagnosis is a choice for many, a reliable diagnosis can be carried out only after the child has reached two years of age. The cause of autism remains unknown, but many scientists believe genetic factors play a key role.
Lower protein levels trigger behavioral changes
Researchers from the University of Toronto in Ontario have discovered a protein that could hold an important key to understanding many autistic cases. The scientists are also hopeful that the discovery can open doors for more advanced future therapies.
This joint expedition was run by Professor Benjamin Blencowe from the University of Toronto’s Donnelly Centre, and Prof. Sabine Cordes of the Department of Molecular Genetics and Sinai Health System’s Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute.
Scientists have been successful in the past with proving the presence of low levels of the NSR100 protein in the brains of autistic individuals. To validate the studies, scientists further conducted tests by decreasing the level of proteins in mice.
As expected, the mice started to display reduced levels of proteins and showcased reduced levels of interaction, and subsequently added sensitivity to noise.
These findings shed light on the importance of the proteins and their influence on the social behaviour of an individual.
A link between Autism and NSR100 in the Brain
Scientists believe that NSR100 proteins may play a critical role in channelling a wider horizon of molecular miscues that end up in the development of autism symptoms.
For example, the team observed similar traits attributed to autism in mice during brain testing. This discovery led scientists to believe that autism may result when protein levels have been incorrectly spliced within brain cells.
The authors are hopeful that by making use of these kinds of models, they will lead scientists to detect smaller molecules that might assist doctors in correcting the lower levels of the NSR100 protein found in autistic individuals.
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