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Protein-Protein Interaction Screening Could Uncover How Gene Mutations Contribute to Autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a common neuro-atypicality, prevalent around the world, with thousands of cases of it in the United States. Though cases range in symptoms and presentation, it is known to present challenges to those on the spectrum—diagnosed and undiagnosed alike. It can affect all areas of a person’s life and make certain social requirements difficult. There are many adults with autism who live relatively self-sufficient lives, given appropriate accommodations and treatment if needed. However, many other individuals are unable to live fully independently at any time in their lives.

Though it is a common disorder, scientists have not fully discovered all the details about autism. There are developments and discoveries being made every day. As they are, we get closer to understanding the condition and properly diagnosing and treating it.

Scientists have recently made a new discovery in this arena that better lets us understand how gene mutations can contribute to autism.

Protein–protein Interactions

Protein–protein interactions occur all of the time in the human body. This involves two or more proteins physically contacting one another as the result of some external force. Thus, the body forms a network of protein–protein interactions. This network serves as a framework for signaling circuits.

Though these protein–protein interactions occur commonly in the body, it is difficult to understand the circuitry within them. When we can decipher which direction the signaling flows, we can better predict genome-related conditions.

Protein–protein Interactions and Autism

Tests are revealing how vital the study of these interactions is to understanding neurological disorders like autism. The  relationship between genes and proteins can help to determine the function of each. When it was discovered that genes are closely linked to autism, scientists found that the mutations in those genes gave them a better idea of the cause of autism. The protein–protein component has been previously unstudied when it comes to autism, and the focus on mutations in these genes can provide significant information to researchers.

High Throughput Screening

Scientists are also increasing the use of high throughput protein–protein interaction screening to better identify and predict different diseases and disorders. This method has been used in cancer research in the recent past. However, it seems as though high throughput screening of protein–protein interactions can also give immense insight into autism. By screening protein–protein interactions, researchers can better see how mutations in autistic patients disrupt normal function, leading to the symptoms we associate with the disorder.

Looking Forward

This method seems to show immense promise in the world of autism research. Though it is only a first step, these new methods may open the door to significant progress in the near future. Understanding the role of proteins in the question of “what causes autism?” gives researchers invaluable information about how they may better treat patients on the autism spectrum.

Realistically, it is impossible to treat a condition that isn’t understood. The hope is that Protein–protein screening gives the key information needed to properly understand autism. With this understanding, we may see more effective treatments very soon.