Nav: Home

Zebrafish study provides new insights into autism spectrum disorder research

January 24, 2018

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Exposure to a compound used to treat migraines and seizures causes characteristics associated with autism, groundbreaking research with zebrafish has demonstrated.

The study conducted by Oregon State University and Wenzhou Medical University showed valproic acid exposure resulted in phenotypes and behaviors consistent with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, and validated zebrafish as a model for studying ASD and its causes.

"The main thing we want to emphasize is the usefulness of this model," said co-author Courtney Roper, a postdoctoral fellow in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences. "We can very quickly look at genetic and environmental factors associated with autism that are very difficult to understand in humans. The ease and speed of the genetic analysis in this model make it very attractive compared to a rodent model."

Autism spectrum disorder consists of five related neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by pervasive impairments in social interactions, deficits in verbal and nonverbal communication, repetitive patterns of behaviors and unusual sensitivity to sensory stimulation.

All of the factors behind autism are not known, but the etiology is known to have both genetic and environmental components, including prenatal exposure to two drugs: thalidomide, a sedative associated with severe birth defects, and valproic acid.

Autism diagnoses have been on the rise since the 1990s. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about one child in 68 will be identified with autism spectrum disorder.

ASD strikes all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups but is about 4.5 times more common among boys (1 in 42) than girls (1 in 189).

Zebrafish are a small freshwater species that go from a cell to a swimming fish in about five days. They reproduce rapidly and are particularly useful for studying the development and genetics of vertebrates, including the effects of environmental contaminants and pharmaceuticals on early embryonic development.

Zebrafish share a remarkable similarity to humans at the molecular, genetic and cellular levels, meaning many zebrafish findings are immediately relevant to humans. Embryonic zebrafish are of special interest because they develop quickly, are transparent and can be easily maintained in small amounts of water.

The OSU findings showed that treating zebrafish embryos with valproic acid, or VPA, starting eight hours after fertilization led to a significant increase in the ASD macrocephalic phenotype - i.e., an enlarged head.

It also caused hyperactivity of movement behaviors in embryos and larvae, and a tendency toward ASD-like larval social behaviors.

"In addition to the ASD-like characteristics, we observed an overgrowth of mature newborn neurons and neural stem cells in the developing brain after VPA exposure," Roper said. "Next, now that we have models for behavior established, is to start looking at the genetic and environmental interactions, examining some of the potential factors that might be driving autism in humans."
-end-
Findings were recently published in Neurotoxicology and Teratology. The National Natural Science Foundation of China supported this research, as did Wenzhou Medical University.

Oregon State University

Related Autism Articles:

Genes, ozone, and autism
Exposure to ozone in the environment puts individuals with high levels of genetic variation at an even higher risk for developing autism than would be expected just by adding the two risk factors together, a new analysis shows.
A blood test for autism
An algorithm based on levels of metabolites found in a blood sample can accurately predict whether a child is on the autism spectrum of disorder (ASD), based upon a recent study.
New form of autism found
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) affect around one percent of the world's population and are characterized by a range of difficulties in social interaction and communication.
Autism Speaks MSSNG study expands understanding of autism's complex genetics
A new study from Autism Speaks' MSSNG program expands understanding of autism's complex causes and may hold clues for the future development of targeted treatments.
Paths to Autism: One or Many?
A new report in Biological Psychiatry reports that brain alterations in infants at risk for autism may be widespread and affect multiple systems, in contrast to the widely held assumption of impairment specifically in social brain networks.
Raising a child with autism
Humans are resilient, even facing the toughest of life's challenges.
Explaining autism
Recognizing a need to better understand the biology that produces Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) symptoms, scientists at Duke-NUS Medical School (Duke-NUS) and the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI), Singapore, have teamed up and identified a novel mechanism that potentially links abnormal brain development to the cause of ASDs.
Autism breakthrough
Using a visual test that is known to prompt different reactions in autistic and normal brains, Harvard researchers have shown that those differences were associated with a breakdown in the signaling pathway used by GABA, one of the brain's chief inhibitory neurotransmitters.
New options for treating autism
The release of oxytocin leads to an increase in the production of anandamide, which causes mice to display a preference for interacting socially.
The Autism Science Foundation launches the Autism Sisters Project
The Autism Science Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting and funding autism research, today announced the launch of the Autism Sisters Project, a new initiative that will give unaffected sisters of individuals with autism the opportunity to take an active role in accelerating research into the 'Female Protective Effect.'

Related Autism Reading:

Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism
by Barry M. Prizant (Author)

Winner of the Autism Society of America’s Dr. Temple Grandin Award for the Outstanding Literary Work in Autism

A groundbreaking book on autism, by one of the world’s leading experts, who portrays autism as a unique way of being human—this is “required reading....Breathtakingly simple and profoundly positive” (Chicago Tribune).

Autism therapy typically focuses on ridding individuals of “autistic” symptoms such as difficulties interacting socially, problems in communicating, sensory challenges, and repetitive behavior patterns. Now Dr. Barry M. Prizant... View Details


The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism
by Naoki Higashida (Author), KA Yoshida (Translator), David Mitchell (Translator)

“One of the most remarkable books I’ve ever read. It’s truly moving, eye-opening, incredibly vivid.”—Jon Stewart, The Daily Show

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
NPR • The Wall Street Journal • Bloomberg Business • Bookish

FINALIST FOR THE BOOKS FOR A BETTER LIFE FIRST BOOK AWARD • NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

You’ve never read a book like The Reason I Jump. Written by Naoki Higashida, a very smart, very self-aware, and very charming thirteen-year-old boy with autism, it is a... View Details


Autism Breakthrough: The Groundbreaking Method That Has Helped Families All Over the World
by Raun K. Kaufman (Author)

As a boy, Raun Kaufman was diagnosed by multiple experts as severely autistic, with an IQ below 30, and destined to spend his life in an institution. Years later, Raun graduated with a degree in Biomedical Ethics from Brown University and has become a passionate and articulate autism expert and educator with no trace of his former condition.
So what happened?

Thanks to The Son-Rise Program, a revolutionary method created by his parents, Raun experienced a full recovery from autism. (His story was recounted in the best-selling book Son-Rise: The Miracle Continues and in the... View Details


The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (And Their Parents)
by Elizabeth Verdick (Author), Elizabeth Reeve M.D. (Author)

This positive, straightforward book offers kids with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) their own comprehensive resource for both understanding their condition and finding tools to cope with the challenges they face every day. Some children with ASDs are gifted; others struggle academically. Some are more introverted, while others try to be social. Some get "stuck" on things, have limited interests, or experience repeated motor movements like flapping or pacing ("stims"). The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders covers all of these areas, with an emphasis on... View Details


A Parent's Guide to High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder, Second Edition: How to Meet the Challenges and Help Your Child Thrive
by Sally Ozonoff (Author), Geraldine Dawson (Author), James C. McPartland (Author)

Many tens of thousands of parents have found the facts they need about high-functioning autism spectrum disorder (ASD), including Asperger syndrome, in this indispensable guide. Leading experts show how you can work with your child's unique impairments--and harness his or her capabilities. Vivid stories and real-world examples illustrate ways to help kids with ASD relate more comfortably to peers, learn the rules of appropriate behavior, and succeed in school. You'll learn how ASD is diagnosed and what treatments and educational supports really work. Updated with the latest research and... View Details


Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew: Updated and Expanded Edition
by Ellen Notbohm (Author), Veronica Zysk (Editor)

A bestseller gets even better!  Every parent, teacher, social worker, therapist, and physician should have this succinct and informative book in their back pocket. Framed with both humor and compassion, the book describes ten characteristics that help illuminate—not define—children with autism.

Ellen’s personal experiences as a parent of children with autism and ADHD, a celebrated autism author, and a contributor to numerous publications, classrooms, conferences, and websites around the world coalesce to create a guide for all who come in contact with a... View Details


Eating for Autism: The 10-Step Nutrition Plan to Help Treat Your Child’s Autism, Asperger’s, or ADHD
by Elizabeth Strickland (Author)

What your child eats has a major impact on his brain and body function. Eating for Autism is the first book to explain how an autism, Asperger's, PDD-NOS, or ADHD condition can effectively be treated through diet.

Eating for Autism presents a realistic 10-step plan to change your child's diet, starting with essential foods and supplements and moving to more advanced therapies like the Gluten-Free Casein-Free diet. Parents who have followed Strickland's revolutionary plan have reported great improvements in their child's condition, from his mood, sleeping patterns, learning... View Details


Asperger's Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna
by Edith Sheffer (Author)

A groundbreaking exploration of the chilling history behind an increasingly common diagnosis.

Hans Asperger, the pioneer of autism and Asperger syndrome in Nazi Vienna, has been celebrated for his compassionate defense of children with disabilities. But in this groundbreaking book, prize-winning historian Edith Sheffer exposes that Asperger was not only involved in the racial policies of Hitler’s Third Reich, he was complicit in the murder of children.

As the Nazi regime slaughtered millions across Europe during World War Two, it sorted people according to... View Details


I See Things Differently: A First Look at Autism (A First Look At...Series)
by Pat Thomas (Author)

Psychotherapist and counselor Pat Thomas puts her gentle, yet straightforward approach to work in this new addition to Barron's highly acclaimed A First Look At...Series. This book will help children understand what autism is and how it affects someone who has it. A wonderful catalyst for discussion that will help children to better understand and support autistic classmates or siblings. The story line is simple and easily accessible to younger children, who will learn that exploring the personal feelings around social issues is a first step in dealing with them. Full-color... View Details


Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity
by Steve Silberman (Author), Oliver Sacks (Foreword)

This New York Times–bestselling book upends conventional thinking about autism and suggests a broader model for acceptance, understanding, and full participation in society for people who think differently.
 
What is autism? A lifelong disability, or a naturally occurring form of cognitive difference akin to certain forms of genius? In truth, it is all of these things and more—and the future of our society depends on our understanding it. Wired reporter Steve Silberman unearths the secret history of autism, long suppressed by the same clinicians who became... View Details

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Attention Please
In an age of constant information and infinite distractions, how can we pay more attention to our ... attention? This hour, TED speakers explore the battle for our awareness during the digital age. Guests include sociologist Zeynep Tufekci, podcast host Manoush Zomorodi, neuroscientist Amishi Jha, designer Tristan Harris, and computer scientist Jaron Lanier.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#475 Mother Nature is Trying to Kill You (Rebroadcast)
This week, we're learning how deadly and delightful our planet and its ecosystem can be. We're joined by biologist Dan Riskin, co-host of Discovery Canada's Daily Planet, to talk about his book "Mother Nature Is Trying to Kill You: a Lively Tour Through the Dark Side of the Natural World." And we'll talk to astronomer and author Phil Plait about Science Getaways, his company that offers educational vacation experiences for science lovers.