Here is some interesting new autism research.
The website Spectrum News (spectrumnews.org) reports on the findings of neuroscientist Baoji Xu at the Scripps Research Institute in Florida re microglia, a protein in the brain that they say ‘prunes’ excess synapses in the brain. They engineered mice to overproduce a protein called EIF4E that is essential to the production of microglia, resulting in enlarged microglia in those mice. The result of that?
The overproduction of proteins in …. microglia causes social impairments, cognitive deficits and repetitive behavior in male mice….. These behavioral differences are not present in female mice…
Mutations in several genes linked to autism – including TSC1, TSC2, PTEN and FMR1 – are associated with elevated levels of an active form of EIF4E and, as a result, many other proteins in the brain. Mice that overproduce EIF4E also display autism-like behavior
This is really food for thought, especially with the finding that female mice are not affected, which seems to mirror the situation in humans. Of course, in humans females are just less effected. There are autistic girls and women, just less of them.
You do have to wonder if these researchers are not on to something, that an understanding of at least one cause of autism might be near.
But then comes the inevitable. Baoji Xu says,
[If] increased protein synthesis in microglia is sufficient to cause autism phenotypoes in mice, …problems in microglia could be an important pathological mechanism for autism.
So, we are back into pathology. Autism is a disorder or disease, not just a different way of being.
We need to keep in mind that the enlarged microglia in mice discussed here is the result of scientists meddling with their brains. If microglia in autistic people are enlarged, it is likely the result of genetic evolution, since it has been established that autism is primarily passed on genetically. In other words, the human autistic microglia may be that way for a purpose.
Before we start trying to change the microglia of autistic people, we should first find out whether this difference might be connected with some of the traits of autistic people that many on the spectrum have no desire to lose – increased memory, increases in certain types of intelligence, sometimes increased sense perception, independence of spirit, etc.
If it should be found that altered microglia are at the root of autism traits, and they develop safe treatment for reducing the size of our microglia, or whatever they decide is required, some of us, and I am one, will reply, “No thanks, I’m happy the way I am.”
Here is the full article on Spectrum News: