Scientists discovered a new cause of autism

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Autism is a condition that some people are born with. It affects how a person communicates and behaves.

It’s more common in boys and usually starts to show when a child is very young. Every 1 out of 59 children has it.

The Role of Brain Cells in Autism

Our brains are made of many tiny parts called brain cells. These cells need to talk to each other for us to think, learn, and behave.

They do this through connections called synapses. When we’re babies, our brain cells make lots of synapses. The more synapses, the better the brain cells can communicate.

But what if something goes wrong in this process? This might lead to conditions like autism.

The Study on Autism

Researchers from Northwestern University and other places have been studying this. They wanted to find out if certain genes could affect the formation of synapses, and in turn, lead to autism.

One of their main focuses was a gene named ANK3, which makes a protein called ankyrin-G.

In the past, scientists knew that changes in the ANK3 gene were linked to brain-related conditions like autism. However, no one knew exactly how this gene affected the brain.

Discoveries: The Role of Ankyrin-G and Usp9X

In their study, the researchers found that ankyrin-G has a crucial job. It helps in the growth of dendrites, parts of brain cells that reach out to connect with other cells.

These connections form synapses. However, ankyrin-G needs a partner to do its job — an enzyme named Usp9X.

Usp9X acts like a protective friend to ankyrin-G, keeping it stable so it can do its job of helping the brain cells make synapses.

When the pair work well together, the baby’s brain forms many connections, leading to effective communication between brain cells.

The Issue: When Usp9X Stops Working

But what happens if Usp9X stops working properly? The researchers discovered that without Usp9X’s help, ankyrin-G levels drop. This problem might occur right after a baby is born, which could harm the brain.

To understand the effects of this issue, the scientists observed mice that had the same problem. These mice had issues with their neurons, the technical term for brain cells, and they behaved differently.

The researchers believe these issues occurred because the mice had fewer synapses, leading to poorer communication between their brain cells.

Concluding Thoughts

The scientists concluded that issues with the Usp9X gene might be one cause of autism.

This research is a big step towards understanding why some people have autism. However, more studies are needed to confirm and expand on these findings.

This exciting discovery was shared in the Neuron journal by Peter Penzes and his team.

If you care about autism, please read studies about a new cause of autism, and vitamin D could help lower the risk of autoimmune diseases.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about rare blood clots after COVID-19 vaccination and gut health plays a role in autism.

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