Autism Research

Spinning System Turns Stem Cells Into Mini-Brains

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute
Date Published: 
October 30, 2013
Abstract: 

Researchers have coaxed human stem cells to develop into simplified mini-brains, with regions resembling discrete brain structures, reported in the journal Nature. A spinning culture system prods stem cells to develop into neurons in three dimensions. The culture system is a gelatinous protein-rich mixture that provides both the structural support and nutrients required for neuronal development. Already, the researchers have shown that these artificial brains may model human disorders better than real mouse brains do.

Maternal Prenatal Weight Gain and Autism Spectrum Disorders

Source: 
Pediatrics
Date Published: 
October 28, 2013
Abstract: 

New research from the University of Utah and published in the journal Pediatrics has uncovered an association between autism spectrum disorders and a small increase in the amount of weight a mother gains during pregnancy. These findings suggest that weight gain during pregnancy is not the cause of ASD but rather may reflect an underlying process that it shares with autism spectrum disorders, such as abnormal hormone levels or inflammation.

Researchers Can Now Track Multiple Mice Simultaneously

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute
Date Published: 
October 16, 2013
Abstract: 

Researchers have developed software that can automatically track and catalog the behavior of up to four mice at once. Mice are often used for autism research because they are easy to manipulate genetically. This new method, which involves using images taken by a heat-sensing camera and a new software algorithm, makes collecting research more efficient.

Study Ties Growth Factor to Autism

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
Date Published: 
October 22, 2013
Abstract: 

Mutations in the autism-linked protein NHE6 may block the development of neuronal junctions by interfering with a growth factor called BDNF, according to a study published in the journal Neuron. The results suggest that drugs that enhance BDNF signaling could treat some forms of autism, the researchers say.

Kids with Autism are Often on Many Medications at Once

Source: 
Pediatrics
Date Published: 
October 21, 2013
Abstract: 

According to a new study in the journal Pediatrics, kids with autism are often prescribed mood altering drugs, sometimes many at one time and for extended periods of time. These drugs include antipsychotics, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medications. The study states that this practice occurs despite minimal evidence of the effectiveness or appropriateness of multidrug treatment of ASD.

Babies Born to Women with Diabetes may be at Higher Risk for Autism

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute
Date Published: 
October 15, 2013
Abstract: 

Babies born to women with gestational diabetes tend to be large and go through spells of low blood sugar within their first few days of life. They may also be at an increased risk for autism, reports a study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. The study also found that the risk extends to children born to women who had diabetes prior to pregnancy.

Autism and Epilepsy Cases Share Mutations

Source: 
Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute
Date Published: 
October 15, 2013
Abstract: 

About one-third of people with autism suffer from epilepsy. This overlap suggests that the two disorders may have a common origin — a theory borne out by examples of shared genetics. Mutations in GABRB3, a brain receptor linked to autism, are prevalent in severe childhood epilepsy, according to a study published in Nature. The study also found that many of the spontaneous mutations found in children with epilepsy overlap with those linked to autism and fragile X syndrome.

Autism Science Foundation Marks 5th Anniversary with a Day of Learning and Evening of Celebration

Date Published: 
October 22, 2013

 

Contact: Casey Gold                                                                                      For Immediate Release
Email: cgold@autismsciencefoundation.org                                                                October 22, 2013

AUTISM SCIENCE FOUNDATION MARKS 5TH ANNIVERSARY
with a DAY OF LEARNING & EVENING OF CELEBRATION

Day of Learning will feature the Autism Community’s First
TED-Style Scientific Conference

 

(October 21, 2013—New York, NY)  Today the Autism Science Foundation announced plans to celebrate the organization’s fifth anniversary with a full day of events at the Yale Club of New York City on April 10, 2014.

On the afternoon of April 10, ASF will host a festive luncheon, followed by the autism community’s first TED-style conference, featuring talks from NIMH Director Dr. Thomas Insel, Dr. David Amaral, Dr. Joseph Buxbaum, Dr. David Mandell, Dr. Paul Offit, Dr. Matt State, and other prominent scientists, as well as individuals with autism, including Paul Morris, an adult on the autism spectrum. These TED-style talks will be thoughtful, 15-minute distillations of critical issues in autism.  “This event, geared toward all stakeholders, will be our gift back to the autism community,” said Alison Singer, president of the Autism Science Foundation. “Our speakers will focus on the real issues facing families, such as gender differences in diagnosis and treatment, the value of genetics testing, the effectiveness of school-based interventions, and the challenges of finding meaningful employment.”  

The highlight of ASF’s anniversary celebration will be its Fifth Anniversary Gala in the evening of April 10, during which the foundation will honor two leaders in autism science: Dr. Gerald Fischbach, Chief Science Officer of the Simons Foundation, and Dr. Paul Offit, Chief of Infectious Diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and author of Autism’s False Prophets.  Dr. Richard Besser, Chief Medical Correspondent for ABC News, will serve as emcee for the evening, which will feature a cocktail reception and dinner, as well as a silent auction and entertainment by teens and adults with autism, including singer Izzie Piwnicki and pianist Josh Frelich.

Proceeds from the day’s events will benefit ASF’s pre- and postdoctoral fellowship programs, which support early career research conducted by the nation’s most promising young autism scientists. For more information about the event, click here

Registration is now available! To become a sponsor, to register, or to join the benefit committee, please click here.
Availablity is limited, so register today!
 
With any questions, please contact Casey Gold at 212-391-3913 or cgold@AutismScienceFoundation.org.

 

The Autism Science Foundation (ASF) is a 501(c)(3) public charity. Its mission is to support autism research by providing funding to scientists and organizations conducting autism research. ASF also provides information about autism to the general public and serves to increase awareness of autism spectrum disorders and the needs of individuals and families affected by autism.

To learn more about the Autism Science Foundation’s programs visit www.autismsciencefoundation.org

Autism Rates Rise in US, but Level Off in UK

Source: 
BMJ Open
Date Published: 
October 16, 2013
Abstract: 

Autism rates in the United Kingdom appear to have leveled off between the years 2000 and 2010 after a five-fold rate increase in the 1990s. The report, published in the journal BMJ Open, does not have any conclusive answers as to why there was such a dramatic increase in autism diagnosis in the 1990s, but it does state that any link between autism and vaccines has been ruled out. This BMJ Open report is being compared to a report released by the CDC last year that found rates of autism diagnosis in the United States increased 78 percent between 2004 and 2008.

ASF Grantee Publishes Paper in Nature that Brings Insight to Study of Phelan-McDermid Syndrome and Autism

Source: 
Nature
Date Published: 
October 16, 2013
Year Published: 
2013
Abstract: 

A new study brings important insights about the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in the loss and gain of synaptic function in human neurons from patients with Phelan-McDermid syndrome and autism. It also provides encouragement that neurons derived from induced pluripotent stem cells of patients will be useful in understanding and developing treatments for neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders.

By Dr. Oleksandr Shcheglovitov
 
22q13.3 deletion syndrome (also known as Phelan-McDermid syndrome) is a genetic neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by global developmental delay, severely impaired speech, intellectual disability, and autism. The syndrome is caused by the heterozygous microdeletions in the terminal region of chromosome 22. Although, a candidate gene responsible for the neurological abnormalities in patients has been suggested (SHANK3, which encodes a scaffolding protein of excitatory synapses), cellular and molecular defects associated with this syndrome were unknown. In the study published in Nature today, researchers from Stanford University reported that human neurons derived from induced pluripotent stem cells of patients with Phelan-McDermid syndrome and autism have deficits in excitatory synaptic transmission due to reduced number of excitatory synapses. The authors demonstrated that SHANK3 is primarily responsible for these deficits, as neurons from patients had reduced SHANK3 expression and increasing the levels of SHANK3 expression rescued synaptic deficits in patient cells.
 
The authors also tested several drugs for their ability to increase the number of excitatory synapses in neurons derived from patients and found that prolonged treatment with Insulin Growth Factor 1 (IGF1) completely restores excitatory synaptic transmission in patient cells. Interestingly, IGF1 produced its action by increasing the number of different type of excitatory synapses that express scaffolding protein PSD95 and lack SHANK3 expression.
 
In summary, this study brings important insights about the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in the loss and gain of synaptic function in human neurons from patients with Phelan-McDermid syndrome and autism. It also provides encouragement that neurons derived from induced pluripotent stem cells of patients will be useful in understanding and developing treatments for neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders.