An Autism Biomarker Leads the Potential for Improvement in ASD Diagnoses and Drug Treatment

News Brief by Rebecca Moragne

         Scientists at the University of California Irvine’s Center for Autism Research and Translation recently discovered an autism biomarker that may lead to more dependable autism diagnoses and stronger treatment drugs. Currently, there are no reliable biomarkers for ASD. An autism biomarker would provide a measurable and reproducible indicator of ASD, increasing accurate diagnoses.

          Dr. J. Jay Gargus, Ian Parker, and colleagues found an inositol triphosphate receptor (IP3R) defect in three different genetic forms of ASD. IP3R is involved in a cellular calcium signaling process, managing calcium release from the endoplasmic reticulum. The defect is thought to cause a decrease in the amount of calcium released. Calcium is vital for brain neuron-to-neuron communication. Individuals with autism have a lower level of calcium signaling in their cells. This relation may explain why those with autism experience effects of delayed neurotransmitter release including learning and memory impairment. The IP3R defect’s location is additionally newsworthy because the endoplasmic reticulum supports cognitive function and possibly digestive and immune system performance. Therefore, the IP3R’s defect may lead to cognitive, digestive, and immune impairments, which are all symptoms of autism.

            The autism biomarker’s discovery may also aid in drug development. ASD drug production is limited due to inadequate knowledge of causes. Scientists are now exploring the IP3R channel to examine its effect on neuron level excitability. Brains of individuals with ASD have hyperexcitability, which is associated with low levels of calcium signaling. Scientists believe that by increasing calcium release levels from the IP3R to normal, the hyperexcitability will cease. A drug from this biomarker could potentially improve the lives of 2% of the United States, all those diagnosed with ASD.

University of California - Irvine. "Researchers find biomarker for autism that may aid diagnostics:    Study also points to potential new drug discovery advances." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22  Sept. 2015. Web. 04 Oct. 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150922150228.htm>.