Can Autism Be “Edited”?

The Hughes Brothers are way over our heads already. This research stands way on out there, and then some. It comes to us from the Department of Cellular and Integrative Physiology at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.

Using breakthrough genetic techniques, the scientists at work there report that they have – their word – edited away traits of autism. The results of the trial: a significant reduction of repetitive behavior so frequently associated with the disorder.

The Hughes Brothers remind themselves that these results have, to date, been manifested only in mice. “Mice models” actually, a non-human species studied extensively in an attempt to understand particular biological phenomena, with the expectation that discoveries made in the organism model will provide insight into the workings of other organisms, homo sapiens, included. The tests down in Texas indicate, however, that the editing technique might be developed to treat conditions ranging from epileptic seizures and opioid addiction to schizophrenia and neuropathic pain.

Prepare yourself.

“Technical” doesn’t begin to describe the following.

The researchers injected gold nanoparticles covered in a (another research-specific term) “forest” of DNA chains to alter the genetic code of mouse models with a form of autism called Fragile X Syndrome (FXS).

Here’s the official name for the technique: CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing.

Seems the mice were digging and jumping pretty much non-stop. The edit resulted in in a thirty per cent reduction in the mice’s clawing at the dirt, and a whopping seventy percent reduction in their leaping about.

This jumping over and over again, just like the relentless digging suggest autism.

Our friend, gold

Because the editing DNA arrived attached to gold particles, the researchers could control how much of the crucial Cas9 protein was delivered, this protien the editing agent

According to the team’s leader, Hye Young Lee, “There are no treatments or cures for autism yet, and many of the clinical trials of small-molecule treatments targeting proteins that cause autism have failed. This is the first case where we were able to edit a causal gene for autism in the brain and show rescue of the behavioral symptoms.”

The skeptics take on the research.

The Hughes Brothers are still hiding under cover as we bring you opinion from knowledgeable folks who just don’t want to be disappointed once again.

Some docs worry about comorbidity with Fragile X Syndrome and autism, believing that FXS is a condition in its own right, not simply a form of autism. Consequently, the results of this research do not necessarily address children diagnosed without FXS.

Others don’t think this finding will help suchpeople with non-syndromic ASD. (Syndromic being autism associated with other neurological disorders or syndromes.)

Still other scientists argue that the reported reduction in digging and leaping may not necessarily indicate a reduction in repetitive behavior as opposed to a drop in levels of energy. These doctors wonder that if the San Antonio testing conditions demonstrated that the mice were really channeling their energies into more varied, more productive activities. As opposed to the mice just going oh so slowly to sleep.

Where to from here?

The Hughes Brothers will continue to scour the Net, indeed any reputable source we can find, looking for news of any sort related to Autism Spectrum Disorder. As always, we’re mere reporters on this far-out scientific stuff – although we’re learning how to, we trust, translate the technical language into more widely understood vocabulary. This article was tough. We found ourselves googling every other minute for more information about an unavoidably technical phrase.

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