Dr. Mohan Babu and his team awarded $2 million USD for autism spectrum disorder research
In Canada, approximately one in 66 children and youth are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD is a lifelong, neuro-developmental disorder. And, as the name suggests, how it impacts people is unique and on a spectrum.
People with ASD can have a range of sensory experiences that can be more or less difficult, depending on the person. There can be challenges with communication and social interactions, or people may display repetitive or restrictive behaviours.
ASD susceptibility is understood to be determined during early brain development. Often researchers analyze the entire genome of a developing brain, such as through DNA sequencing. What has not been studied enough is what happens at the single-cell level in a developing brain.
The Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative has awarded $2 million USD in research funding to University of Regina biochemist Dr. Mohan Babu and his team members from Stanford University and the University of California San Francisco to address this gap.
“With expertise in the study of proteins, neuroscience, ASD genomics, and machine learning, my team aims to measure protein abundance in a single cell in the developing human cerebral cortex across several weeks while the baby is in-utero. Our team will also analyze what happens at different stages of development in the cerebral cortex,” says Babu. “Finally, this funding will also allow us to map genomic mutations in people who have ASD to uncover the molecular pathways associated with this disorder.”
Babu says these steps will help his team to determine which genes and gene mutations are associated with ASD, advance their understanding of the brain, and ultimately uncover new targets for future therapeutic development.