Research scientists at the University of Cambridge have successfully discovered genes that are specifically linked to the brain anatomies of children diagnosed with autism condition.
Earlier studies have highlighted notable differences in the structure of the brain of individuals diagnosed with autism condition. However, up until now, researchers and scientists had remained clueless as to which specific gene is linked to these visible differences.
The team at Cambridge University have analyzed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of brains from 150 young autistic children. The results were compared with scans of the brains of children without the condition but who were similarly aged to the autistic children. The team looked at visible variations in the cortex thickness which forms the outermost layer of the brain, while interlinking it with the genetic activity in the region of the brain.
In addition to these findings, the team also discovered a set of genes which link to the differences visible in the cortex between autistic children versus their typically developing peers. The genes involved were triggered by communicating with one another within the inner region of the brain cells.
Further, a large number of genes that were identified during the course of this study have shown lower levels of gene activity at the molecular levels. The molecular levels were uncovered after analyzing post-mortem reports of the brain tissue of those with autism condition.
The research study was led by Dr. Richard Bethlehem, Dr. Rafael, and Varun Warrier. Nevertheless, the study is the first of its kind to link differences in the brains of individuals diagnosed with autism condition versus typical genetic activity in autistic brains.
Dr. Richard Bethlehem comments, “These studies take us a step closer to understanding why and how the brains of people with and without the condition differ.” We have known autism condition to be genetic in nature for a while. However, with the evolving times and advanced technology, today we are capable of combining data sets based on genetic data and MRI brain scans that let us precisely which genes are related to autistic brains and which are not.
In other words, we are set to start a new journey into linking macroscopic and molecular levels to precisely understand the diversity and uniqueness of autism condition.
Dr. Varun explains, “There is a need to confirm our results by analyzing newer brain scans and genetic data and look at genetic activities in conjunction with cortex thickness related to autism condition.”
Dr. Rafael adds, “Identification of the genetics linked to underlying changes in the brain is the first step in gaining deeper insights into the condition.”
Nevertheless, these helpful and promising findings help one to better understand how molecular conditions outlie autism condition. The team concludes by highlighting the importance of making coordinated efforts to get deeper insights into the condition.