Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex mental condition that is present from early childhood. With no known single cause of autism.

Those individuals affected with ASD find difficulty communicating and forming relationships. ASD is defined by a particular set of behaviors and is a “spectrum condition” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees.

The study of Autism is still ongoing with researchers around the globe finding ways to turn off autism. Genomic research is beginning to discover that people with ASD probably share genetic traits with individuals with ADHD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or clinical depression.

Researchers have also figured out how to reverse the symptoms of autism in mice, by merely turning on a gene like a light switch. But the technique is a long way from human trials; the results provide hope that similar approaches could eliminate some of the most frustrating symptoms for people with autism, regardless of their age.

The scientists engineered mice to be born without a gene called Shank3 – a gene missing in 1 percent of autism patients. The scientist found that by turning the gene on, they could stop symptoms associated with ASD, such as the avoidance of social interaction and compulsive & repetitive behavior. The most interesting part of the finding is that the technique worked in adults as well as juveniles, showing that the brain can fix itself regardless of age.

Speaking of light. Optogenetics (a biological technique involving the use of light to control cells in living tissue, typically neurons, which have been modified to express light-sensitive) is currently not used in people. But the study helps drugs or other types of treatments target cells and circuits in the brain more effectively.

A study published in Science Translational Medicine added weight to a long-standing theory that autism originates from too much excitation in the brain. Hinting that treatments which restore a balance between excitation and inhibition could assist people with autism in their social difficulties.

Test conducted on mice affected by autism used mice engineered to express light-sensitivity by modifying a type of protein called opsins in them. Light shone into the mice’s prefrontal cortex, a region involved in social behavior to turn specific neurons on or off was used to ease anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder in mice.

 

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