MicroRNAs Provide New Insight in Study of Autism

Jul 01, 2008

MicroRNAs may play an important role in the development of autism spectrum disorder, according to a new paper by University of California, Santa Barbara professor Kenneth S. Kosik.

Kosik, co-director of UCSB's Neuroscience Research Institute and the Harriman Professor of Neuroscience, was senior author of the paper, "Heterogeneous Dysregulation of microRNAs across the Autism Spectrum," published this month in the journal Neurogenetics.

"There is such a broad interest in autism," Kosik said. "This is the first work in this area."

Autism is a neurological disorder that impairs social interaction and communication, usually before a child turns three years old.

In addition, Kosik's research discovered that autism may be even more genetically diverse than previously thought. "We can't continue to look at this (autism) as a monolithic entity," Kosik said. "This is not a single disease."

Instead, his paper revealed that microRNAs have a unique type of genetic signature that shows the very broad underlying diversity of autism. While many studies lump together all cases of autism, some recent papers have reported mutations among small numbers of autism patients. Kosik's microRNA research shows that autism does indeed cover a broad spectrum.

Ribonucleic acid, or RNA, is a link between DNA and protein. Some RNAs, according to Kosik, do not make a protein. One such type of RNA is called a microRNA because it's very short. While there are 23,000 genes in the human body, there are about 1,000 different microRNAs.

The short RNA sequences can bind to many different, longer RNAs and inhibit them from making the protein, Kosik's study found. "In this manner, they exert a broad regulatory control over the expression of many different proteins," he said. And many of the genes they control are involved in brain development.

"It was of interest to find that various members of the microRNA family are frequently dysregulated in autism," Kosik said. "This result points to a single control layer in the cell that can change in quite different ways with autism as the end result."

Source: UCSB

Explore further: New compounds protect nervous system from the structural damage of MS

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Ancient wheat points to Stone Age trading links

48 minutes ago

(AP)—Britons may have discovered a taste for bread thousands of years earlier than previously thought, thanks to trade with more advanced neighbors on the European continent.

Bumblebees make false memories too

54 minutes ago

It's well known that our human memory can fail us. People can be forgetful, and they can sometimes also "remember" things incorrectly, with devastating consequences in the classroom, courtroom, and other ...

Recommended for you

Mystery of the reverse-wired eyeball solved

21 hours ago

From a practical standpoint, the wiring of the human eye - a product of our evolutionary baggage - doesn't make a lot of sense. In vertebrates, photoreceptors are located behind the neurons in the back of the eye - resulting ...

Neurons controlling appetite made from skin cells

21 hours ago

Researchers have for the first time successfully converted adult human skin cells into neurons of the type that regulate appetite, providing a patient-specific model for studying the neurophysiology of weight ...

Quality control for adult stem cell treatment

Feb 27, 2015

A team of European researchers has devised a strategy to ensure that adult epidermal stem cells are safe before they are used as treatments for patients. The approach involves a clonal strategy where stem cells are collected ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.