By Claire Wiggins
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) characterizes a wide range of social disability, and although scientists don’t know the exact cause of ASD, research has indicated that both genetics and environment play key roles.
Often, people with ASD experience a period of rapid brain growth shortly after birth. A new study suggests that this previously misunderstood process may be caused by inflammation in the pregnant mother. The researchers at UCLA showed that when inflammation was induced in pregnant mice, an excessive division of neural stem cells in the offspring was noted.
“We have now shown that one way maternal inflammation could result in larger brains and, ultimately, autistic behavior, is through the activation of the neural stem cells that reside in the brain of all developing and adult mammals,” said the senior author of the paper, Dr. Harley Kornblum.
After birth, the mice with enlarged brains exhibited behaviors typical of many autistic children, such as lack of interest in socialization with the other mice or less likely to produce noise when separated from their mother.
The team discovered that the brain growth caused by the inflammation was greater is the mouse lacked a certain tumor suppressor gene, confirming previous studies that have indicated that there are both genetic and environmental factors involved in ASD. The research team also isolated a specific molecular pathway responsible for the brain growth response. These two discoveries open up possibilities for therapeutic targets, which could lead to future treatments.
Read more here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141010154926.htm
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