Boca Raton, FL, December 8, 2007 By introducing a gene mutation in mice, investigators have created what they believe to be the first accurate model of autism not associated with a broader neuropsychiatric syndrome, according to research presented at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology annual meeting. This animal model could help researchers better understand abnormal brain function in autistic humans, which could help them identify and improve treatment strategies. Broader neuropsychiatric conditions include Fragile X, the most common cause of inherited mental impairment, and Rett Syndrome, a childhood neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by normal early development followed by slowed brain and head growth, seizures, and mental retardation.
Autism is a neuropsychiatric disorder characterized by repetitive behaviors and by impairment in social interactions and communication skills. These symptoms can coexist with either enhanced or decreased cognitive abilities and skills.
Prior to this study we knew next to nothing about the mechanisms of autism in the brain, says study researcher Craig M. Powell, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of neurology and psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. With this research, we can study changes in the brain that lead to autistic behaviors and symptoms, which may help us understand more about progression and treatment of the disorder.
The research team, led by Thomas Sdhof, M.D., professor and chairman of neuroscience at UT Southwestern, replaced the normal mouse neurologin-3 gene with a mutated neuroligin-3 gene associated with autism in humans. By doing so, the team was able to create a gene in the mice that is similar to the human autism disease gene. While the result amounted to a very small change in their genetic makeup, it perfectly mimicked the same small change occurring in some patients with human autism.
Dr. Powell studied t
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American College of Neuropsychopharmacology