The diagnosis of autism is on the rise, and researchers around the world are working hard to discover the etiology of the developmental delay. The largest single grant for autism worldwide, EU-AIMS programme, is part of this attempt. Thomas Bourgeron, a researcher at the Institute Pasteur in Paris, is examining blood tests to isolate a sample of DNA. Bourgeron is looking at genomes to pinpoint a signal fall, and therefore identify specific gene(s) responsible for autism.
Genetically mutated mice, a mutation associated with autism, have been created in one lab. When two untouched mice were put in a tray, the mice interacted with one another; however, when a mutated mouse and an untouched mouse were together in a tray, the mutated mouse did not engage with the other mouse, following the signs of autism with social disassociation. Researchers at EU discovered an association between the lack of neuroligin-3 and cases of autism in mice.
Efforts are also being exhausted at King’s College London, where Declan Murphy, professor of psychiatry and brain maturation, is taking all of the three-dimensional information of the brain to get a clear picture of an autistic brain. His goal is to have a reliable diagnosis for autism to then develop the more effective treatment.
Just like people with autism receive a combination of therapies (ABA therapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, etc.), researchers are realizing the importance of a combination of technologies. Richard Bergström of the European Federation of the Pharmaceutical Industries and Association said,
“You need to bring all these different new technologies together…the knowledge about genetics, the knowledge about proteins, it takes all this together and you can develop what we call bio-markers to have something to measure, because when you start leaving medicines you need to have some kind of measure, we call that ‘end-point.’ To study whether (the drug) is going to be effective or not.”[i]
Luckily, the awareness of autism is also on the rise, so grants are being given to help researchers conduct such studies to hopefully discover the etiology of autism.
[i] “SCI-TECH” Developing a treatment for autism. 25 Jun 2013. Web. <http://www.euronews.com/2013/06/25/developing-a-treatment-for-autism/>