Autism gene that slows down brain cell communication identified

Toronto, Nov 9 (IANS) Researchers, including one of Indian-origin, have identified a gene mutations in which can change the way brain cells grow and communicate in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

The researchers identified genetic changes that keep DIXDC1 protein turned “off” that causes brain synapses — communications in the brain cells — to stay immature, and reduce brain activity, in individuals with autism.

This finding provides new insights into ASD that will guide identification of new medications for people with ASD. This is critical because ASD affects one in 68 individuals, and there are no medications that target the core symptoms of this complex disorder, the researchers said.

“Because we pinpointed why DIXDC1 is turned off in some forms of autism, we can now begin the search for drugs that will turn DIXDC1 back on and correct synaptic connections, leading to potential new treatment for autism” said lead author Karun Singh, Assistant Professor at McMaster University, located in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

While this discovery holds promise, mutations in DIXDC1 account for only a small number of individuals with autism and related psychiatric conditions.

“However, there is strong evidence that many other autism genes disrupt the development of synapses similar to DIXDC1; therefore, the key to a new treatment for autism will be to find safe medications that restores brain cell synapse growth and activity,” Singh said in the paper published in Cell Reports.