Many pieces to the Autism puzzle

The range of symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorder can often be severely disabling and the need for treatment is quite serious. Scientists are now realizing that just as the symptoms of autism are not alike, the causes are also distinct and require different treatment.

An experiment done at MIT on genetically engineered mice proved that two different disorders on the spectrum could have different causes. This suggests that the gene mutations do not produce the same disease, even though both are considered forms of autism.

The new study suggests that drugs developed to treat a certain autism disorder may not work for another and that any drug given to a patient with autism must be carefully matched with their genetic background to ensure it does more good than harm.

But the investigators at MIT believe that all genetic causes of autism could have one underlying theme: a functional pathway of neurotransmitters and receptors that in the end results in the synthesis of new proteins at synapses.

“The study identified one functional axis, and it will be important to know where a patient lies on this axis to devise the therapy that will be effective,” said lead researcher Mark F. Bear, Picower Professor of Neuroscience at MIT.

Pieces of the autism puzzle seem to be growing in number but scientists are simultaneously finding pieces that fit together.

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