A decade of research on the biology of autism, combined with a steady rise in diagnoses, has finally piqued the pharmaceutical industry’s interest in developing drugs for the disorder. Preliminary data from one small clinical trial already show positive results, and results from several others are expected early this summer.
Spectrum: Autism Research News
Children with Williams syndrome — a rare genetic disorder that leads to mental retardation and overt friendliness — hold stereotypes based on gender, but not race, according to a report published in Current Biology. Because those with Williams syndrome don’t have social fear, the study suggests racial stereotypes are based partly on fear.
Neuroscientists have discovered a population of cells in the smell-perception area of the rat brain that express the hormone vasopressin. The study, published in Nature, begins to unpack the complicated molecular interactions of the hormone in the brain, which could lead to new autism treatments.
Genetic variations that tweak the brain’s release of oxytocin — a hormone involved in social bonding and establishing trust — may increase the risk of developing autism or traits of the disorder, according to three new studies published in the past few months.
Studying the relatively well-defined genetics of Williams syndrome may help unravel the poorly understood genetic and neurobiological roots of autism, researchers say.