Posts Tagged “Translational Psychiatry”

Experimental Alzheimer’s Drug May Help Kids With Autism

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Experimental Alzheimer’s Drug May Help Kids With Autism

Israeli scientists are suggesting that an experimental drug for Alzheimer’s disease may help children with autism, according to an extensive study published last month in the academic journal Translational Psychiatry.

The study was led by Professor Illana Gozes of the Department of Human Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry at Tel Aviv University and included researchers from Tel Aviv University, the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer Hospital, and research institutions across Europe (the biotechnology institute BIOCEV in the Czech Republic, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece, the University of Antwerp in Belgium, and the University Hospital Centre in Zagreb, Croatia).

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Prof. Gozes is a leading neuroscientist and an expert in the field of tauopathy (one of the leading pathologies in Alzheimer’s disease), a pathology characterized by deposition of the protein Tau in the brain. It is found in neurodegenerative diseases, the most common being Alzheimer’s disease.

The study in question looked at protein deposits found in the postmortem brain of a seven-year-old child with autism from Croatia. The child had ADNP syndrome, a condition on the autism spectrum characterized by intellectual disability, and impaired communication and social interaction. The syndrome causes a deficiency or malfunctioning of the ADNP protein, which is essential for brain development.

Twenty years ago, the activity-dependent neuroprotective protein ADNP was discovered and characterized in the laboratory of Prof. Gozes. She and her team learned that ADNP is vital for brain formation and presents one of the leading mutated genes that cause ADNP syndrome, a condition within the autism spectrum. Prof. Gozes also linked ADNP to Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia.

“ADNP protects against electrical blockades and we need the electricity in order for our brain to function. We realized it might be a very important protein and when we [took it out] of animals, there was no brain. So it is essential for the formation of the brain,” Prof. Gozes tells NoCamels.

It was only after the ADNP protein was created that researchers realized that autism could be determined by genetics. That was when they discovered that if a child is born with one mutation in a very critical gene, it can cause autism.

“When ADNP syndrome was discovered some six years ago,” Prof. Gozes says, “suddenly, ADNP became a leading gene to cause the de novo mutation [genetic alteration] which is found in children within the autism spectrum.”

Upon examining the brain of this seven-year-old child and comparing it to the brain of a 31-year-old adult with no preexisting conditions, the researchers found deposits of the tau protein in the child’s brain tissues.

“When we compared the postmortem ADNP syndrome brain tissues to tissue from the brain of a young person without ADNP syndrome, we found deposits of the tau protein in the ADNP child, a pathology that characterizes Alzheimer’s disease,” Prof. Gozes explained in a Tel Aviv University statement.

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