Scientists are hopeful that new drugs to treat autism may result from a recent research project involving mice. In the study, a single gene was mutated in mice to produce two common autism traits. Right now there are no effective autism drugs available.
The gene in question is known as the shank3 gene. The result of mutating this gene in mice was a noticeable display of two behaviors common in those with autism. The behaviors observed in the mice were compulsive repetitious behavior and an observable avoidance of social interaction.
The study, conducted at Duke Unversity and a research institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is in the current online edition of Nature. The shank3 gene has been targeted as a possible cause of autism in humans. The goal is to find what it is in the gene that causes autism and develop treatments to counter those effects in humans.
However, researchers acknowledge that results in tests done on animals are not often duplicated in human tests. Researchers do believe it is a step in the right direction towards fighting autism. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 9 in every 1,000 children in the U.S. may have autism.