NEW YORK, N.Y. (June 30, 2011) Autism Speaks Weatherstone Pre-Doctoral Fellows M. Ali Bangash, a 2009 fellow, and Mehreen Kouser, a 2010 fellow, recently published new findings in the journal Cell that shed light on the biology of autism. Their research is based on a mouse model that mimics a human mutation of a gene that is known to be associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), known as SHANK3. Mutations of this gene have recently been implicated in a subset of individuals with autism "Enhanced Polyubiquitination of Shank3 and NMDA Receptor in a Mouse Model of Autism" details a new SHANK3 mutant mouse and demonstrates how this autism-associated gene affects brain functioning. Examining the genetic causes of autism, Bangash worked with mentor Paul Worley, M.D. of Johns Hopkins University, and Kouser worked with mentor Craig Powell at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas to refine a mouse model to study the gene SHANK3 and investigate its implications for autism. Their work specifically shows that the gene is involved in how neurons communicate at synapses. When this gene mutation was recreated in a mouse, the animals had significant changes in a neurotransmitter, glutamate, which regulates communication between neurons in the brain and results in behavioral deficits consistent with symptoms of autism.
"This is significant published research from our Weatherstone Fellows portfolio. We are pleased to see the fruits of their efforts so soon, and the exceptional caliber of this work is representative of the excellence in this group of scientists who are pursuing the next generation of autism research," said Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., chief science officer for Autism Speaks.
Cheryl Weatherstone Vance recently told a gathering of Weatherstone fellows, "My father, along with the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, wanted the brightest minds in the country to find answers to the mysteries of autism. You are on an in
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