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Research proposes common link between autism, diabetes
Date:10/19/2011

rn said at least four genes associated with increased frequency in autism are known to produce proteins that play key roles in a biochemical pathway known as PI3K/Tor. Stern said he had been studying a form of abnormal function in the synapses of fruit flies that was remarkably similar to abnormalities observed in rats and mice with defects in a different pathway known as mGluR-mediated long-term depression.

"I had also spent a lot of time thinking about insulin signaling because another project in my lab is an endocrinology project in which we're studying how key proteins involved in insulin signaling affect the timing of metamorphosis in fruit flies," Stern said.

From his studies in both areas, Stern knew two things: PI3K/Tor was the major pathway for insulin signals within cells, and insulin could affect synapses in a remarkably similar way to the mGluR defects associated with autism.

"When I read that the incidence of autism was increasing, and combined that with the fact that the incidence of Type 2 diabetes is also increasing, it seemed reasonable that each increase could have the same ultimate cause -- the increase in hyperinsulinemia in the general population," Stern said. "I didn't do anything with this notion for a few years because it seemed so obvious that I figured everyone already knew this hypothesis, or had tested it and found it was not true."

Stern said he changed his mind a few months ago when a health care consulting firm asked him to provide input about autism.

"In preparing for this interview, I discovered that gestational diabetes was the most important identified maternal risk factor for autism, but that 'no known mechanism could account for this,'" Stern recalled. "When I read this, I was speechless. That's when I realized that this was not obvious to others in the field, so I decided to write this up with the hope that clinicians might become aware of this and treat their patients accordingly."'/>"/>

Contact: Jade Boyd
jadeboyd@rice.edu
713-348-6778
Rice University
Source:Eurekalert  

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Research proposes common link between autism, diabetes
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