New research suggests certain gene mutations cause autism that interferes with brain development. Present in autistic people, it affects cells which organize a fetus’s cortex as it develops. The study appeared in Neuron. Known as radial glia, these cells are like a house’s framing timers. They divide and produce neurons, serving as a guide for neurons to grow, stated Evan Anton of NCNC University. Functional circuits-related neurons are organized by these genes. When they get disrupted, autism may be caused, stated Anton.
Although autopsies and MRIs have enabled defect identification previously, researchers had no clue what caused them. Autism risk factors aren’t yet known. However, environmental factors and genetic mutations are likely to cause them. Understanding autism development could aid treatments and diagnosis of autism. Over 1 out of forty kids in the USA have autism, as per the latest estimates. Anton performed experiments on mice, which had Memo1 gene mutations. It is also present in humans. Cerebral cortex region is used for judgment, memory, perception, and speech, forming the brain’s outer layer.
During cortex development, radial glia appears in spaced patterns. They sprout fibers which grow in the cortex, creating nerve cells. As they are created, these fibers are used for climbing to various regions of the cortex. Upon successful development, 6 highly organized nerve cell layers are formed. When Memo1 genes are mutated, radial glia sprouts fibers which go haywire in many directions. This causes nerve cells being placed wrong with disorganized layers. Although not found in every autistic person, it does show how brain malformations could have been triggered. Those with Memo1 mutations have epilepsy, spectrum disorders, and intellectual disabilities.
Dr. Sestan stated that this study showed how gene mutations could cause brain localized defects. He stated that radial glia was responsible for guiding neurons to the right places. Alex Kolodkin of John Hopkins mentioned that many genes were been analyzed, which may be linked to autism development. The challenge now is to link these genes that are linked to autism with defects in the brain. The research showed that autism-related causes could surface as early as the 1st 3 months of pregnancy, Sestan stated.