Researchers studying the differential expression of microRNA say they may have discovered a way to treat autism by reversing the effects of the disease.
Taken together with recently published research regarding “DNA tagging” by methylation, they say their new study in Genome medicine illustrates two different “epigenetic” mechanisms controlling gene activity in autism that lie beyond genetic mutations. While methylation inhibits gene expression at the level of DNA, microRNA inhibits at the level of RNA.
MicroRNA are snippets of RNA, each of which can inhibit the expression of hundreds to more than a thousand genes. The effects of microRNA are also reversible by treatment with complementary “anti-sense” RNA.
The George Washington University team identified changes in the profile of microRNAs between identical twins and sibling pairs, discordant for diagnosis of autism. They discovered that, despite using cells derived originally from blood, brain-specific and brain-related microRNAs were found to be differentially expressed in the autistic samples, and that these microRNAs could potentially regulate genes that control many processes known to be disrupted in autism.
For example, differentially expressed microRNAs were found to regulate genes highly involved in neurological functions and disorders in addition to genes involved in gastrointestinal diseases, circadian rhythm signaling, and steroid hormone metabolism.
The study further shows that by treating the cells with “anti-sense” RNA antagonists to specific microRNA or by employing mimics of a particular microRNA, one can reverse the pattern of expression of a given target gene regulated by that microRNA.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that many factors, genetic as well as epigenetic, contribute to the manifestation of autism spectrum disorders,” said Valerie Hu, from the University's School of Medicine. “Epigenetic factors are particularly interesting as they provide potential mechanisms for introducing environmental effects into this complex disorder.”
Citation: Sarachana et al., 'Investigation of post-transcriptional gene regulatory networks associated with autism spectrum disorders by microRNA expression profiling of lymphoblastoid cell lines', Genome Medicine, April 2010, 2(23); doi:10.1186/gm144
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- How A Former Naturopath Can Help Unravel The Trickery of Alternative Medicine
- Swarm Bots Kill Mass Shooter
- Unlocking The Secrets Of Nerve Regeneration
- Can A New Rule Trigger A Second EU Referendum? Petition 4 Millon Signatures, Nearly 12% Of Total Votes Cast
- Extinction: The Asteroid That Got The Dinosaurs Almost Got All Mammals Too
- Legions Of Immune Cells In The Lung Keep Legionella At Bay
- Human Early Visual Cortex Subconsciously Resolves Invisible Conflicts
- "New video to add to this article, astronaut Tim Peake spinning at very high speed in the ISS, not..."
- "A scientific approach is the only way one can really be assured that a treatment has merits. The..."
- "Bollocks! You will find the possible side effects listed are a exhaustive precautionary list of..."
- "Sorry, but even using the term allopath shows your bias. That is a term invented by the creator..."
- "Lets make something clear- most of you are arguing past each other on topics that are too broad..."
- Vice President Joe Biden Threatens the Scientific Community
- Why Some Sounds Make Us Cringe
- Over 100 Nobel Laureates Condemn Greenpeace for Opposing Golden Rice
- New Team Member: Dr. Alex Berezow
- New Investigation Will Examine Breast Cancer Recurrence Post Weight Loss
- DIY Biohacking: Unethical, Fringe and Probably Necessary to Advance Science
- Researchers find surface of Mercury arose from deep inside the planet
- Fire discovery sheds new light on 'hobbit' demise
- Synthesized microporous 3-D graphene-like carbons
- Country pledges overshoot Paris temperature limit
- Kaiser Permanente study: National rates of death due to heart disease, stroke leveling off