A groundbreaking study led by Dr. Haitham Amal and his team from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has made a remarkable discovery regarding autism.
For the first time, researchers have established a direct link between nitric oxide (NO) levels in the brain and autism. The findings of this study have been published in the esteemed journal Advanced Science.
Autism spectrum disorder affects millions worldwide, with over 30,000 children in Israel alone diagnosed with the condition before the age 18. In the United States, autism is the most prevalent developmental disorder, with one in 44 individuals under the age of 21 falling on the spectrum.
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The study revealed a compelling association between increased levels of NO in the brain and the manifestation of autism symptoms, uncovering a previously unknown mechanism related to the disorder. Conversely, when NO levels were purposefully and controlled reduced in murine models of autism, the indicators and behaviors associated with autism also decreased.
Dr. Amal elaborated on the research findings, stating, “Our study demonstrated, in an extraordinary manner, that inhibiting the production of NO specifically in brain neuron cells of mouse models of autism resulted in a decrease in autism-like symptoms. By reducing NO production in laboratory animals, they exhibited enhanced sociability and reduced repetitive behaviors. Additionally, the animals displayed interest in novel objects and showed decreased anxiety. Importantly, the reduction in NO levels significantly improved neuronal indices.”
The study not only relied on various mouse models of autism but also involved experiments conducted using human stem cells and clinical blood samples obtained from children with low-functioning autism. The results from the mouse models were correlated with stem cells derived from autistic children and blood samples taken from individuals with low-functioning autism.
Dr. Amal stated, “This research marks a significant breakthrough in the field of autism research, establishing a direct connection between elevated NO levels in the brain and autistic behavior.
This discovery could potentially have implications for other neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and psychiatric conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. With this newfound understanding of the NO mechanism, I am optimistic that we can advance the development of therapeutic drugs to assist millions of children and adults living with autism worldwide.”
Dr. Manish Tripathi, Mr. Shashank Ojha, Ms. Maryam Kartawy, and Ms. Wajeha Hamoudi, members of the Amal Lab, played key roles in leading this study.