In order to ensure that researchers have enough brain tissue to understand autism spectrum disorders, the education and outreach campaign is being expanded past families to doctors and professionals that have access to tissue. One of these groups is neuropathologists. At their annual meeting this past week in Los Angeles, and entire afternoon was spent dedicated to autism and the features of autism in the brain. A summary of the presentations is included in this podcast. Speakers emphasized that the way the brain works in childhood is not the same way it works in adulthood, and a study out of UCSD showed that the genes that are affected in children with autism are different than those in adults with autism. The mechanisms of genes controlling the developing brain vs. those which affect ongoing maintenance are different. This calls to make sure scientists understand all ages of people with autism, because as the brain changes, so do the needs of people with ASD.
On December 13, 2016, Dr. Matthew Anderson from Beth Isreal Deaconess Medical Center presented a 45 minute webinar on recent findings in autism thanks to studying the brains of people with autism. It covers genetics, neuropathology and immunology. It’s a great chance to hear a quick recap of findings from an Autism BrainNet node director. Please click above to watch the 45 minute presentation and questions from the audience. Most importantly, anyone can be a part of this important research by registering to learn more about the Autism BrainNet at www.takesbrains.org.
This week I am in Minneapolis at an incredibly important meeting of Medical Examiners to pitch them the importance of collecting brain tissue for Autism BrainNet. While I was here I noticed a new study on the blogs that is important for families to hear about. It focused on a known environmental exposure in established genetic groups. The authors of the study, led by Dr. Sara Webb at University of Washington, showed that an environmental exposure can modify symptoms in genetically susceptible narrow subgroups. This is the sort of research that will better describe how environmental exposures are affecting autism risk. Thank you to Dr. Sara Webb for your perspectives and interpretation of the data!