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Major medical journal publishes Academia Sinica autism research

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Research conducted by Academia Sinica (中研院) in which scientists established the connection between autism and defective neural development was recently published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

The neuron-specific transcription factor T-box brain 1 (TBR1) regulates brain development. Disruptive mutations in the TBR1 gene have been repeatedly identified in patients with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).

Dr. Hsueh Yi-ping (薛一蘋) at the Institute of Molecular Biology of Academia Sinica has been studying TBR1 for an extended period of time. Scientists know that TBR1 is influential in the development of the cerebral cortex and amygdala, but only started to suspect that TBR1 is related to autism in the last couple of years.

Loss of a specific protein will lead to a disconnect between the two halves of the amygdala as well as neural circuit anomalies, scientists found. TBR1 is a special gene that controls 15 other neurons, according to researchers at Academia Sinica.

The public is unsure about the causes of autism. But with the new discovery, patients may undergo an MRI in a hospital to verify if there are any relevant gene abnormalities. If abnormalities do exist, patients may undergo further examination to check the condition of TBR1 and other related genes. This is the first research to establish a connection between autism and defects in neural circuits.

The research team also found that D-cycloserine can remedy defects in neural circuits and treat autism in mice. The research took place over nine years and provided an explanation of the causes of autism and even suggested clinical medicine that may treat the condition.

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