‘A new study is offering a clue into the origins of the disorder by finding a single dysfunctional protein may be responsible for coordinating expression in all the genes that result in autism susceptibility.’
I took that quote from an article on autism research published by New Atlas. I strongly recommend reading the entire article but the gist is that:
- Researchers have found hundreds of genes implicated in the Autism Disorder spectrum, not just one ‘master’ gene.
- These genes are like switches that can be turned on or off.
- While these genes are ‘off’, the person may have a tendency towards autism, but they will not be autistic – i.e. there will be no symptoms of autism.
- There is a protein called CPEB4 which ‘…is vital in embryonic development, assisting with neuroplasticity and helping regulate the expression of certain genes during fetal brain development.’ In other words, this is a good protein.
- In mouse models, not enough of this protein leads to brain structures and behaviours that are characteristic of autism. In other words, the lack of this protein causes those autism-related genes to be switched on and the result is Autism-like behaviour.
Now, mouse models are just an approximation of the human condition, but they do lend support to the idea that autism is not just a genetic condition/disorder. Instead, it may well be a case of environment acting on an underlying pre-disposition. And if that is the case, then maybe one day we’ll be able to keep those Autism related genes switched off.
Have a great weekend,