In a paper appearing in the journal Nature, Canadian researchers led by Nahum Sonenberg in McGill University describe their progress in reversing “autism-like symptoms” in a new mouse model using protein inhibitors. What kind of autism-like symptoms? The genetically-engineered mice that lacked the gene Eif4ebp2 exhibited poor social interaction, altered communication and repetitive behaviors.
“Even though autism is a neurodevelopmental disease, we were able to correct autism-associated behaviours in adult mice,” says Christos Gkogkas, a member of Sonenberg’s team at McGill.
Despite these results, Sonenberg cautions against interpreting them as a sign that a treatment for ASD is around the corner. “The drug we used would be too toxic to use for ASDs,” he says. “But we’ve shown that this pathway is important, identified potential therapeutic targets and demonstrated that a drug therapy is possible in principle.”