As reported by a recent story on Science Alert, researchers have figured out how to reverse the symptoms of autism in mice, simply by turning on a gene like a light switch. Although the technique is a long way off being trialled in humans, the results provide hope that a similar approach 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 - which is missing in 1 percent of autism patients. They showed that by turning the gene back on, they could stop many symptoms associated with autism, such as the avoidance of social interaction and compulsive and repetitive behaviour. The most exciting part is that the technique worked in adults as well as juveniles, which shows that the brain can fix itself, even into adulthood.
There's a lot more work to be done before the treatment can be trialled in humans, and the mouse brain is in no way identical to a human brain. But a lot of the genetic pathways involved in the development of autism are known to be similar, and it's exciting to think that we may be able to use a similar approach to help people with autism manage their symptoms.
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