Researchers Believe Missing Protein May Create Autism-Like Behaviors
A missing protein may be responsible for creating autism-like behaviors, according to new research from scientists at Rutgers University-Newark. Juan Pablo Zanin, a Rutgers-Newark research associate, led the study, along with Wilma Friedman, a professor of cellular neurobiology in the Department of Biological Sciences.
Together, Zanin and Friedman studied the p75NTR protein, which regulates cell division, to understand its exact role in brain development. By studying the protein, they also hoped to discover whether there is a genetic link to autism or Alzheimer’s. While the p75NTR protein is not linked specifically to autism, it is part of a family of proteins needed for the survival and development of brain cells.
In their research, Zanin and Friedman found that mice without the p75NTR protein had more brain cells than they should, creating problems in the cerebellum, the region of the brain that controls movement, balance, and cognitive function. The cerebellum is also one of the key brain regions affected by autism. The researchers also found that mice without the protein could not learn to blink and shut their eyes when exposed to a blinking light.
“It is important to understand how the brain's circuitry is built and how it regulates behavior normally," Friedman said, according to a report this month by Medical Xpress.com.
"This research shows us that when it is not generated properly it is going to have an impact on many behaviors."