A team of scientists at Florida Atlantic University has discovered a brain-signaling pathway which may be manipulated pharmacologically in genetically engineered mice in order to reverse autism-related pathway. By using a trial drug that targets this pathway, the researchers succeeded in normalizing the disrupted behavior and physiology of these mice. In addition, effects were observed in older mice, showing a potential route to development of new medication for people with ASD.
The findings from this study indicate a new approach to addressing this disorder in people by targeting an enzyme usually linked with inflammation and stress.
The study was based on many years of research on serotonin, the mood-controlling molecule in the human brain which regulates brain synapses. The supply of serotonin is rather tightly controlled by a protein known as serotonin transporter (SERT), which wipes away serotonin from synapses in order to limit its action. Changes in the transporter’s action may have important consequences on the ability of serotonin to act in the brain.
While evidence demonstrates that medications in SERT expression and function can underlie danger for neuropsychiatric disorders, precisely how SERTs are regulated normally in the brain and whether such regulation may be a target for future improved medications, and for which disorders, has been uncertain.