Genes, circuits, and precision therapies for autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders

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Science  15 Oct 2015:
DOI: 10.1126/science.aab3897

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Research in genetics of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism suggests that several hundred genes are likely risk factors for these disorders. This heterogeneity presents a challenge and an opportunity at the same time. While the exact identity of many of the genes remains to be discovered, genes identified to date encode for proteins that play roles in certain conserved pathways: protein synthesis, transcriptional/epigenetic regulation and synaptic signaling. Next generation of research in neurodevelopmental disorders needs to address the neural circuitry underlying the behavioral symptoms and co-morbidities, the cell types playing critical roles in these circuits and common intercellular signaling pathways that link diverse genes. Results from clinical trials have been mixed so far. Only when we are able to leverage the heterogeneity of neurodevelopmental disorders into precision medicine, will the mechanism-based therapeutics for these disorders start to unlock success.

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