Researchers at Leeds have made a pioneering link between a certain type of gene deficiency and autism.
The study led by Pharmacology lecturer Dr Steven Clapcote tested mice to discover whether the neurexin-II gene was linked to autistic symptoms.
Mice deficient in the gene were found to have the same lack of sociability and interest in others attributed to the disorder.
Dr Clapcote said, ‘In other respects, these mice were functioning normally. The gene deficiency mapped closely with certain autism symptoms. This is exciting because we now have an animal model to investigate new treatments for autism’.
A Stanford University scientist had already established a link between autism symptoms and another gene. The Leeds study is the first to find a connection to neurexin-II.
Dr Clapcote added, ‘Not all people with autism will have the neurexin-II defect, but we are starting to build up a picture of the important role of genes involved in these synapse communications in better understanding autism’.