State-of-the-art laser microscopes being used in Scotland to find treatments for autism.








Edinburgh University Researchers are looking at how complex brain circuits go awry in people with autism.

Dame Stephanie Shirley has made the following research study possible following a £1 million donation to fund new laser microscopes.  These microscopes will permit thorough examination of live brain tissue, at the university’s Patrick Wild Centre for Research into Autism, Intellectual Disability and Fragile X Syndrome.

The Princess Royal, the university’s chancellor, will officially open the Shirley Imaging Suites this week at the center. Co-director, Professor Peter Kind, said the first tests using the new equipment have already commenced.

He added: “The microscopes use a type of laser which allows you to get much deeper into tissue. This allows us to start imaging in live tissue. So in terms of understanding how the brain circuits go awry, we can start to address those questions in ways we weren’t able to before.”

Imaging suites will focus on looking at the brain activity in animals bred to have the characteristics of autism and at the circuits of neurons in brain samples under the microscope.

Once they comprehend how neural circuits go awry in people with autism, Professor Kind said they could start testing chemical compounds to see if there are ways to manage the circuits.  Treatments could include drugs that are already being utilized to treat other disorders, clinical trial, and the use of new and early-phase compounds.

Researchers are hopeful they can start experiments relatively quickly thanks to the equipment they now have at their disposal.

Professor Kind added: “These microscopes are dedicated to brain circuit function and what goes wrong in autism. Before Dame Stephanie’s donation we were just unable to do theses experiments.

“There are very few labs anywhere using this equipment to address questions of autism.”

Professor Kind and his group of researchers are hopeful this new equipment will aid in the development of treatments that could helped to address some of the key problems.

Policy and campaigns officer at he said, “This is very interesting technology that could help improve our understanding of autism. While we welcome research that could help us better understand the causes of autism, the most important thing is that we work to ensure people with the disability receive the support they need to reach their full potential.”

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