Autism Research Updates

An Interview with Barbara Wheeler, Associate Director of the USC University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities

Dr. Barbara Wheeler has spent much of her career exploring ways to assure access to information and systems by under-represented groups, including individuals with intellectual disabilities and individuals and their families from diverse racial, cultural, and linguistic groups. In this interview, she discusses her NIH- funded projects on inclusion of minorities in research.

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Genetically engineered mice with autism

Scientists from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School bred mice that have triple copies of the Ube3a gene, an abnormality that can lead to developmental delays, speech difficulties, seizures and walking or balance difficulties. This will allow researchers to test medications to see if the communication and social interaction of these mice improve.

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‘Autism’s like a snowflake’: Genetics, Environment and Autism

This insightful article spotlights Dr. Robert Schultz, director of the Center for Autism Research (CAR) at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and his theories on the relationship between genetics and the environment. CAR identified the first gene (a "common genetic variant") linked to Autism Spectrum Disorder and has also identified a number of rare genetic mechanisms in related genes. The Center will be collaborating with AGRE later this year as it continues to explore autism using brain imaging.

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Overexcited Brain Cells May Spur Symptoms of Autism

Stanford University researchers find over-stimulating certain brain cells with light causes social deficits in mice. This finding could give us insight about how to develop drug treatments or devices to calm these brain cells for those with ASD. Rob Ring, Vice President of Translational Research at Autism Speaks, is quoted in the article.

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Research review attempts to identify factors at birth that affect autism risk

After an examination of over 40 studies, researchers found that a range of factors around the time of birth, such as low birth weight and delivery complications, could be linked to the risk of autism later in life.

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Disrupted Neural Synchronization in Toddlers with Autism

The North County Times reports on a recent study published in Neuron from researchers at UC San Diego. The study found that the left and right hemispheres of autistic toddlers’ brains don't synchronize as well as do those of toddlers who don't have autism. These findings could possibly alter the way autism is diagnosed and treated.

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Solving the Autism Puzzle a Few Pieces at a Time

In the current issue of Neuron, a pair of studies (Levy et al. and Sanders et al.) identify several de novo copy-number variants (structural variations in the DNA that are not inherited from a parent) that together account for 5%–8%of cases when just one individual in a family has an autism spectrum disorder. These studies suggest hundreds of loci, or specific gene or DNA sequence locations on a chromosome, likely contribute to the complex genetic make-up of this group of disorders.

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 New Study Reveals Autism Prevalence in South Korea Estimated to be 2.6% or 1 in 38 Children (Autism Speaks press release)

Research by U.S., Korean and Canadian Investigators Identifies Children Not Yet Diagnosed and Has Potential to Increase Autism Spectrum Disorder Prevalence Estimates Worldwide.

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