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Spectrum: Autism Research News

News The latest developments in autism research.

Community Newsletter: Missing CUL3 in mice, implementation science, a poetic protocol

by  /  6 June 2021
Many mouths making conversation, with speech bubbles in red and blue.

Illustration by Laurène Boglio

Hello, and welcome to this week’s Community Newsletter! I’m your host, Chelsey B. Coombs, Spectrum’s engagement editor.

The first paper that sparked discussion in the autism research community this week is about the gene CUL3 and comes from Gaia Novarino, professor of neuroscience at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria in Klosterneuburg.

The team found that ‘loss of function’ mutations in one copy of CUL3 during development lead to social and cognitive changes in mice that are considered analogous to traits in autistic people. The mutations also cause cellular changes in vitro, which the team rescued by activating one copy of the gene. Mutations in CUL3 later in a mouse’s life do not result in social and cognitive changes, the team further demonstrated.

The neuroscience community lauded the paper as “beautiful” and the findings as “great.”

Our next thread comes from Rinad Beidas, associate professor of psychiatry, medical ethics and health policy, and medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, who wrote an opinion piece for JAMA Psychiatry along with David Mandell, professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania and Autism editor-in-chief.

Implementation science — “the scientific study of methods to increase the adoption, implementation, and sustainment of evidence-based practices into routine care” — has seldom been used with behavioral economics, they write, but together they could “shape the environment so that the right (ie, evidence-based) choice becomes the easy choice.”

Sarabeth Broder-Fingert, associate professor of pediatrics at Boston University in Massachusetts, described it as a must-read.

Another trending commentary, published in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, takes the quality of medical research to task.

The authors say COVID-19 research illustrates an ongoing quality problem: Although scientists have pushed out huge amounts of both COVID-19-related pre-prints and publications, it is often of “poor quality,” they argue, pointing to hydroxychloroquine as an example. The immunosuppressive drug gained widespread popularity as a potential COVID-19 treatment before it was debunked.

“Currently, the scientific enterprise is doing a major disservice to patients and society,” the authors write.

Noah Sasson, associate professor of behavioral and brain sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas, tweeted that the commentary is relevant to the autism research field.

Finally, please enjoy this poetic thread from Anne Churchland, professor of neurobiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, in which she describes a new protocol with the (less-fun) title, “Chronic, cortex-wide imaging of specific cell populations during behavior.”

That’s it for this week’s Spectrum Community Newsletter! If you have any suggestions for interesting social posts you saw in the autism research sphere, feel free to send an email to me at See you next week!

TAGS:   autism, community