Dr. Daniel Geschwind, principal investigator and UCLA professor of neurology and psychiatry, has discovered a relationship between microRNAs and autism spectrum disorders. MicroRNAs are small molecules of single-stranded RNA (ribonucleic acid) that regulate gene expression. When analyzing brain tissue samples from individuals with autism spectrum disorders, Geschwind and his team found distinctive abnormalities; tests showed 58 abnormal microRNAs out of 700 microRNAs analyzed. Collectively, these abnormal microRNAs impact the gene expression of hundreds of different genes. Many of the genes affected by these microRNAs are genes that have been previously associated with autism spectrum disorders. This ground-breaking discovery opens up the possibility for future therapies that target specific microRNAs.
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