This week’s Lancet Neurology features a special open-access series on advances autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
In “Gene Hunting in Autism Spectrum Disorder: On the Path to Precision Medicine,” researchers Daniel Geschwind and Matthew State discuss how recently identified autism “risk genes” hold great promise as therapeutic targets for future treatments. They describe how new advances in genetic technologies such as “gene hunting” (identifying how specific genes contribute to differences in development) are improving understanding of autism’s underlying biology. They further explain how understanding each person’s unique genetic interactions could lead to a new era of “precision medicine” for autism.
“As this paper highlights, new efforts like Autism Speaks’ MSSNG (pronounced “missing”) program will continue to deliver new insights into opportunities for personalized treatments for children and adults with autism,” comments Autism Speaks Head of Genomic Discovery Mathew Pletcher. “With this knowledge, the field has begun to take the umbrella diagnosis of autism and subdivide it into genetically defined subgroups that often have their own unique health concerns and treatment needs.”
In “Neuroimaging in Autism Spectrum Disorder: Brain Structure and Function across the Lifespan,” Christine Ecker, Susan Bookheimer and Declan Murphy discuss how brain imaging is advancing our understanding of crucial differences in brain structure and function in people with autism across their lifespans. They describe how these studies are contributing to the development of improved diagnosis, treatment and support for those with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders.
“Advances in neuroimaging are essential for us to understand how the brain changes with autism,” comments Autism Speaks Vice President for Innovative Technologies Dan Smith. “Progress in neuroimaging research is a long road. But already we have early signs that it will reveal better ways to diagnose autism, characterize how autism symptoms change over the lifespan and deepen our understanding of how different “autisms” develop.
Learn more about brain-imaging research funded by Autism Speaks here.
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