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PHNO SCIENCE & INFOTECH NEWS THIS PAST WEEK
(Mini Reads followed by Full Reports)

HARD SCIENCE: GENETICS OF AUTISM - SCIENTISTS FIND NEW LINK


OCTOBER  23 -THE AUTISM GENE: The genetics surrounding autism has been the focus of many researchers’ investigations. MIT scientists recently reversed symptoms of autism through gene editing, and now researchers have isolated another gene linked to autism, according to a paper published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. The scientists identified the gene in patients suffering from a rare tumor disease associated with the with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) gene, according to The Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis (WUSTL). WUSTL Neurology instructor Stephanie Morris, who helped author the study, says the new genetic link could shed light on other genes involved in autism. “NF1 is caused by mutations in a single gene — NF1,” Morris said, according to WUSTL news. READ MORE...

ALSO: Autism study shows lasting benefits of early interaction


OCTOBER 25 -Autism is a complex disorder of brain development characterised, to varying degrees, by troubled social interactions, difficulty in communicating and repetitive actions or speech (AFP/ YAHOO/ MANILA BULLETIN)
A year-long training program to help parents communicate with their very young autistic children reduced symptoms of the disorder up to six years later, according to a follow-up analysis released Wednesday. Children were less impaired in their ability to communicate, and less likely to show repetitive behavior, one of the telltale signs of the disorder. They did not, however, show improvements in language skills or reduced anxiety, researchers reported in The Lancet, a leading medical journal. READ MORE...

ALSO: Enhanced Humans - MIT Researchers Reverse Autism Symptoms Using Gene Editing


IN BRIEF Scientists discover that removing a gene in early stages of life could "reverse" symptoms of autism. Can the same be done for human patients with autism? Gouping Feng, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, led a team of researchers that reversed autism in mice. A new study published in Nature on February 17 discusses how they managed to “turn off” the gene called Shank3 and then turn it back on at a later part of life, which has been shown to reverse behavioral symptoms of autism. “This suggests that even in the adult brain we have profound plasticity to some degree,” says Guoping Feng, an MIT professor of brain and cognitive sciences. “There is more and more evidence showing that some of the defects are indeed reversible, giving hope that we can develop treatment for autistic patients in the future.” READ MORE...

ALSO: Unprecedented Brain Map Could Reveal Keys to Autism


OCTOBER 3, 2016
MAPPING COMPLEX TERRITORY ---IN BRIEF •A new brain mapping method uses individual unique RNA strands to create "barcodes" to identify neurons. •The new method may provide new inroads to studying and treating brain conditions, such as autism, which impacts 1 in 160 children worldwide.
MAPPING COMPLEX TERRITORY A breakthrough method in brain mapping may help us further understand the way our brain works, and may lead to treatment for neurological issues, as well. The neurons—the billions of cells in the brain—link to each other using electrochemical impulses, in projections called axons. Mapping the complex network of the neuron’s projections let scientists gain insight on the function of specific parts of the brain, as well as researching treatments to illnesses concerning the brain. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Hard Science: Genetics of Autism - Scientists Find New Link

MANILA, OCTOBER 31, 2016 (PHILSTAR) Simplified Genetics - WRITTEN BY Dieter Holger Dieter Holger @dieterholger Website October 23, 2016


Dieter Holger -FUTURISM WRITER

IN BRIEF

•Scientists have isolated another gene — neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) — linked to autism symptoms in nearly half of 100,000 people suffering from the rare NF1 tumor disorder.

•The research provides hope in finding new genetic links and treatments for the neurological disorder that affects millions of Americans and 1 in 68 children

THE AUTISM GENE

The genetics surrounding autism has been the focus of many researchers’ investigations. MIT scientists recently reversed symptoms of autism through gene editing, and now researchers have isolated another gene linked to autism, according to a paper published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

The scientists identified the gene in patients suffering from a rare tumor disease associated with the with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) gene, according to The Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis (WUSTL).

WUSTL Neurology instructor Stephanie Morris, who helped author the study, says the new genetic link could shed light on other genes involved in autism.

“NF1 is caused by mutations in a single gene — NF1,” Morris said, according to WUSTL news.

READ MORE...

“Our research indicates that this single gene also is associated with autism spectrum disorders in these same patients. That may make it possible to look downstream from the gene to find common pathways that contribute to autism in the wider population.”

The researchers reviewed 531 patients at six clinical centers across the world, finding the NF1 gene contributed to autistic behaviors in nearly half of the patients. WUSTL neurology professor David Gutmann says the team only recently started noticing how child NF1 patients also suffer from autism.

“In the past, we didn’t really understand the association between NF1 and autism,” Gutmann said, according to WUSTL news, “but now we have new insights into the problem, which will allow us to design better treatments for children with NF1 and autism.”

HOPE FOR THE FUTURE

Autism is present in 1 to 2 percent of all children in the U.S. and is five times more common in males than females, while NF1 only affects roughly 100,000 people in the U.S.

“We have a single-gene disorder that affects a fairly large number of people and is causing autism in a significant number of those who are affected,” said another researcher, John Constantino, according to WUSTL news.

“This work could provide us with an opportunity to study a single gene and figure out what it is doing to cause autistic syndromes.”

Finding the genetic links of autism is key in developing effective treatments for the disease that, according to a 2016 CDC study, impacts 1 in 68 children.

Researchers are also using brain maps and growing brain-like tissue from stem cells to reveal the secrets of the disorder.

References: Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, JAMA Psychiatry


MANILA BULLETIN

Autism study shows lasting benefits of early interaction by Agence France-Presse October 26, 2016 Share0 Tweet0 Share0 Email0 Share5


Autism is a complex disorder of brain development characterised, to varying degrees, by troubled social interactions, difficulty in communicating and repetitive actions or speech (AFP/ YAHOO/ MANILA BULLETIN)

A year-long training program to help parents communicate with their very young autistic children reduced symptoms of the disorder up to six years later, according to a follow-up analysis released Wednesday.

Children were less impaired in their ability to communicate, and less likely to show repetitive behavior, one of the telltale signs of the disorder.

They did not, however, show improvements in language skills or reduced anxiety, researchers reported in The Lancet, a leading medical journal.

READ MORE...

Autism is a complex disorder of brain development characterized, to varying degrees, by troubled social interactions, difficulty in communicating and repetitive actions or speech. It affects about one in 100 people.

The findings — praised by outside experts as a “remarkably positive” and a “major contribution” to autism research — came as something of a surprise because the 2010 clinical trials they were based upon showed limited benefits at the time.

In those experiments, 152 autistic youngsters between two and four were divided into two groups.

Both groups received what was considered to be standard behavior treatment.

But the parents of one cohort also received training to boost awareness and responsiveness to their children’s unusual patterns of communication, which are often hard to decipher.

Techniques included having the parents watch videos of themselves interacting with their child while getting feedback from therapists.

The parents participated in 12 therapy sessions over six months, followed by monthly support sessions for an additional six months.

“Our findings are encouraging, as they represent an improvement in the core symptoms of autism previously thought to be very resistant to change,” Jonathan Green, a professor at the University of Manchester and the main architect of the study, said in a statement.

Not a cure

“This is not a ‘cure’,” he cautioned. “But it does suggest that working with parents to interact with their children in this way can lead to improvements in symptoms over the long-term.”

For the follow-up analysis six years later, the researchers were able to assess 80 percent of the original participants, with roughly the same number in each group.

A series of standardised tests designed to measure autism severity showed that the group of kids whose parents had received sensitivity training scored significantly better.

Jeff Jigaboos and Hannah Waddington of Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, described the study and its follow-up as a “major contribution to autism research”.

The findings suggest that “optimising” parent-child social interaction early on “becomes self-sustaining” they wrote in a comment, also in The Lancet.

Evidence that early intervention can make a long-term difference in autism “is a hugely cheering message for families”, said Max Davie of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, in London.

“It means that up until early school years, a modest improvement in outcomes for children is possible.”

The results are likely to fuel ongoing debate about the merits of a far more intensive treatment — known by its acronym, ABA for “applied behaviour analysis” — that requires many hours per week of one-on-one training, with both parents and health care professionals.

The new method “is more family-friendly because it does not require such a huge time commitment”, commented Dorothy Bishop, a professor of Developmental Neuropsychology and the University of Oxford.

Read more at http://www.mb.com.ph/autism-study-shows-lasting-benefits-of-early-interaction/#2Hr3iGspEFE6ULfo.99


FUTURISM

Enhanced Humans: MIT Researchers Reverse Autism Symptoms Using Gene Editing
Credit: Diane Re
WRITTEN BY Joi Matthew February 22, 2016 #autism#mit#Shank3



IN BRIEF

Scientists discover that removing a gene in early stages of life could "reverse" symptoms of autism. Can the same be done for human patients with autism?

Gouping Feng, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, led a team of researchers that reversed autism in mice.

A new study published in Nature on February 17 discusses how they managed to “turn off” the gene called Shank3 and then turn it back on at a later part of life, which has been shown to reverse behavioral symptoms of autism.

“This suggests that even in the adult brain we have profound plasticity to some degree,” says Guoping Feng, an MIT professor of brain and cognitive sciences. “There is more and more evidence showing that some of the defects are indeed reversible, giving hope that we can develop treatment for autistic patients in the future.”

READ MORE...

 
https://youtu.be/d4G0HTIUBlI?t=55

NEW STUDY ON SHANK3

Also known as SH3, Shank3 is a protein that is found in synapses which allows neurons to pass on electrical signals from one neuron to another. This gene has been found to be associated with autism, language and speech disorders, and schizophrenia.

With this new study from MIT, scientists can also gain insight into the neurological mechanisms of the autism spectrum disorder. Using mice, they found that missing or defective Shank3 often causes compulsive behavior, avoidance of social interaction and anxiety. These are all similar behavior by human autistic patients.

Scientists genetically engineered the mice by turning off the Shank3 gene during embryonic development. They then added back the gene to young adult mice (two to four and a half months after being born) by feeding tamoxifen to mice.

Young adult mice did not project repetitive behavior or tendencies to avoid social interaction on this experiment, leading scientists believe that removing the gene during an early stage somehow reversed autism. At the cellular level, the team found that the density of dendritic spines dramatically increased in the striatum of treated mice, demonstrating the structural plasticity in the adult brain.

NOT OUT OF THE WOODS YET

Despite the revolutionary results of this study, Feng and his team discovered that the mice’s anxiety and some motor coordination issues still exist. The professor suspects that these behaviors probably rely on circuits that were irreversibly formed during early development.

They tried another angle, in which they returned the gene only 20 days after birth. The anxiety and motor coordination improved, so now they are working pinpointing the perfect time to intervene with the mice’s system.

“Some circuits are more plastic than others,” Feng says. “Once we understand which circuits control each behavior and understand what exactly changed at the structural level, we can study what leads to these permanent defects, and how we can prevent them from happening.”

THE FUTURE OF SHANK 3 INTERVENTION


The gene Shank3 has been linked to both autism and schizophrenia. Researchers found that two different mutations of the Shank3 gene produce some distinct molecular and behavioral effects in mice. Illustration: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT (Shank3 renderings courtesy of Wikimedia)

Feng’s findings tell us that new genome-editing techniques can repair defective Shank3 gene to improve (if not eliminate) abnormalities such as autism, in theory. However, this technique is not ready to be tested on human patients yet.

The professor believes that scientists can find more general approaches to cater to human patients. An example is if we can identify defective circuits in autism patients, we can somehow modulate these circuits’ activity.

“That’s why it’s important in the future to identify what subtype of neurons are defective and what genes are expressed in these neurons, so we can use them as a target without affecting the whole brain,” Feng says.

Risks of Gene Editing Eugenics
TOPICS:ChinaCRISPRDNAUnited States

POSTED BY: BCNET STAFF MARCH 12, 2016


risks-of-gene-editing-eugenics

KEY TOPICS <http://www.bostoncommons.net/risks-of-gene-editing-eugenics/>

•Any attempt to have a discussion on the consequences of the CRISPR technology underlying human germ-line gene editing, without directly addressing the innate biases of all involved is unethical.

•Tampering with evolution by gene editing may lead to the creation of new types of virulent pathogens or bioterror weapons.15 The autonomous rights of a child is an almost dogmatic principle of auton- omy that bioethicists in the United States value.16 Autonomy states that individuals have the right to choose any medical or non-medical interven- tion for their own bodies.
 
POSSIBLY USEFUL

•The authors reported a high number of off-target effects, meaning that CRISPR/Cas9 modified other locations in the genome; a non-ideal situation that could cause the disruption of other essential gene functions.

Image Courtesy:
link: http://www.thenation.com/article/can-we-cure-genetic-diseases-without-slipping-into-eugenics/
author: thenation.com
description: Illustration by Doug Chayka


FUTURISM

Unprecedented Brain Map Could Reveal Keys to Autism NIH WRITTEN BY AUTHOR Jess Vilvestre EDITOR Patrick Caughill October 3, 2016


MAPPING COMPLEX TERRITORY

IN BRIEF

•A new brain mapping method uses individual unique RNA strands to create "barcodes" to identify neurons.

•The new method may provide new inroads to studying and treating brain conditions, such as autism, which impacts 1 in 160 children worldwide.

MAPPING COMPLEX TERRITORY

A breakthrough method in brain mapping may help us further understand the way our brain works, and may lead to treatment for neurological issues, as well.

The neurons—the billions of cells in the brain—link to each other using electrochemical impulses, in projections called axons. Mapping the complex network of the neuron’s projections let scientists gain insight on the function of specific parts of the brain, as well as researching treatments to illnesses concerning the brain.

READ MORE...

Previously, brain mapping was usually done by infecting the neurons with viruses that glow with different colors, but this is an arduous method.

Visually tracing a specific color trace takes months, and the available fluorescent proteins are limited, meaning scientists can only investigate the projections of about ten cells in a single experiment.


Mapping the complex network of the neuron’s projections -Image source: Wikicommons

A new tool called Multiplexed Analysis of Projections by Sequencing (MAPseq), discussed in a study, published in the journal Neuron, from researchers in Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, uses genetic “barcodes” instead of colors to investigate the path of the neurons.

Each barcode is an RNA sequence: a unique string of protein, similar to the kind that dictates the identity of each of our own cells. Viruses transport the RNA through the neurons. In addition, the viruses still light up, allowing the researchers to see which cells have picked up a barcode.

A PROJECTION TOWARD PROGRESS


What Brain Research Can Show About How Your Child's Brain Develops -PINTEREST IMAGES

The method was tested with mice. Just two days after the RNA-carrying viruses were injected into the brainstem, the mouse brains distinctly showed networks of the neurons upon dissection and inspection under microscope.

Initial findings are already promising. The networks between the brain’s area active in stress response with the brain’s outer layer show underlying clues about autism. According to Spectrum, “Future versions of the tool may allow scientists to determine whether particular neuronal junctions boost or dampen brain activity.” This could lead to better ways of understanding the disorder, making it easier to tailor treatments to battle it.

The brain is indeed complex territory, and studies like this bring us closer to understanding ourselves better, and more importantly, brings developments for treatment closer to reality.


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