What's the Latest Development?

Two diseases with symptoms similar to autism have been traced to specific genetic mutations. The discovery, made by MIT neuroscientist Mark Bear, may lead to the development of new treatments. Bear found that a specific receptor, known as mGluR5, plays an important part in creating synapses, or connections between neurons in the brain. The two diseases, Fragile X syndrome and tuberous sclerosis, either cause a protein overload or a deprivation, causing symptoms similar to those exhibited by autism.  

What's the Big Idea?

Determining that different diseases with similar symptoms have opposite causes—either too much protein or not enough—is an important step toward developing tailored treatments. "There are currently no good tests for which genetic markers a particular autistic patient may have, but if drugs that inhibit and/or stimulate mGluR5 are approved, scientists may be able to identify which autistic patients respond to which drugs, and then try to identify a biomarker in those patients that could be used for future diagnostic tests."

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