Scientists find a totally new COVID-related autoimmune disease

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In the quiet confines of her office at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, Professor Pradipta Ghosh considered a fascinating request from across the globe.

This request came from Dennis McGonagle, a professor of investigative rheumatology at the University of Leeds, who reached out with an intriguing medical puzzle tied to the aftermath of COVID-19.

Autism affects many people around the world, and about 90% of those affected experience severe sensitivity to everyday sights, sounds, and touches.

This can make day-to-day life quite challenging. Researchers at the Institute for Basic Science in South Korea have been studying why this happens.

These researchers discovered that a part of the brain, known as the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), plays a significant role in this sensitivity.

They worked with mice that had a genetic change similar to what some people with autism have. These mice reacted more strongly to things around them, much like how people with autism often do.

What’s interesting is when the researchers calmed down this part of the brain in the mice, their sensitivity decreased. This finding is important because it shows that this brain area is key to understanding and maybe even treating the sensory issues in autism.

Previous studies often looked at other parts of the brain that directly deal with our senses, like seeing or hearing. But this study found that the issue isn’t just with these areas. It also involves how they connect with the ACC, which helps manage our emotions and reactions.

Now, the researchers want to find out more about how these connections in the brain get too active and lead to heightened sensitivity. They think that the genetic change in the mice might be preventing the brain from developing normally.

This might stop the brain from adjusting how strongly it reacts to different amounts of activity, which could be why these sensory issues happen.

Their work could lead to new treatments that make daily life much better for people with autism, helping them handle the sensory overload that can make social situations so difficult.

This research shows the power of exploring not just the parts of the brain that handle basic sensing tasks but also the parts that help us process and respond to what we sense.

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The research findings can be found in eBioMedicine.

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