Researchers at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel announced a major breakthrough in autism research in the September 13, 2012, issue of the journal Science that was reviewed at the Alpha Galileo web site the same day.
Mice lacking the gene for neuroligin-3 developed behavioral patterns reflecting important aspects observed in autism. The negative effects seen in autism are associated with increased production of a specific neuronal glutamate receptor that modulates the signal transmission between neurons and interferes with the function and plasticity of the neuronal circuits. An excess of these receptors inhibits the adaptation of the synaptic signal transmission during the learning process and disrupting the development and function of the brain in the long term.
Reactivating the production of neuroligin-3 in the test mice caused the nerve cells to scale down the production of the glutamate receptors to a normal level and the structural defects in the brain typical for autism disappeared.
This is the first development in autism research that provides the potential for the reversal of symptoms instead of treatment with drugs and therapy.