Disorganized Patches in the Brain Suggest Prenatal Origin of Autism

The architecture of the autistic brain is speckled with patches of abnormal neurons, according to research partially funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health. Recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study suggests that brain irregularities in children with autism can be traced back to prenatal development [1].

Patch-like areas of disrupted neurons

Food Allergies: Nature or Nurture?

The emerging field of epigenetics has added a new dimension to the “nature versus nurture” debate, by which researchers have historically attempted to determine whether a characteristic was influenced by genes or environment. Increasingly, it appears that environmental influences can affect gene expression, meaning that “nature” and “nurture” are inextricable from one another to an even greater extent than previously understood.

DNA structureImage credit: DNA structure via Shutterstock

Metabolic Changes in Human Brain Evolution and Schizophrenia

Earlier this year, researchers at the Max Plank Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, the Shanghai branch of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Cambridge University published a study in the journal Genome Biology providing further evidence that the evolution of human cognitive abilities was accompanied by adaptive changes in brain metabolism, potentially pushing the human brain to the limit of its metabolic capabilities [1]. The results support the theory that schizophrenia is a consequence of human brain evolution.

Gene Expression Can Predict the Survival of Lymphoma Patients

ResearchBlogging.orgA study published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine identified sets of genes in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma that influence the effectiveness of chemotherapy [1]. Researchers found that the tumor microenvironment, consisting of non-cancerous immune and structural cells along with tumor cells, has a significant influence on a patient’s response to treatment.

Potential Location of Autism Genes Identified

Earlier this month at the 58th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics in Philadelphia, researchers reported the results of two genome-wide genetic analyses, identifying five significant loci that contribute to autism susceptibility, three of which have not been reported previously [1], as well as a novel association of genetic variation on chromosome 5 with autism [2].