Dozens of autism genes have cancer connections

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Sabre
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Dozens of autism genes have cancer connections

Post by Sabre » Fri Jun 17, 2016 4:04 pm

Spectrum
Over the past five years, researchers have become increasingly aware of an extraordinary coincidence: Many of the cellular pathways involved in cancer overlap with those implicated in conditions associated with brain development, such as autism.

Intrigued by this connection, autism researcher Janine LaSalle set out two years ago to fully document the extent of the crossover. She teamed up with researchers from both fields to compile a catalog of the genes linked to both conditions. The result appeared earlier this year in Trends in Genetics1.

“There has been a lot of new genetics done with sequencing with autism and cancer. We figured it was time to try to put together a list of [overlapping] genes,” says LaSalle, professor of medical microbiology and immunology at the University of California, Davis.

The resulting 43-gene list (see graphic below) is just a start — researchers are continually finding new genes for both conditions — but suggests ways for the fields to collaborate, she says. Mouse models or therapies developed for cancer might be useful for autism, and vice versa. The genes’ links to autism vary in rigor, but the list includes 17 genes considered strong candidates for the condition. Another eight genes lead to autism-related syndromes, such as tuberous sclerosis or Rett syndrome.

The list highlights a few key cancer pathways that also appear to play an important role in autism. One of these points of convergence includes proteins that alter the dense DNA-protein complex called chromatin, and thereby modulate gene expression. Another centers around WNT signaling, a group of pathways that translate messages from outside the cell into changes in gene expression.

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Amazing the amount of gene research going on right now. If this link is validated, i can only imagine where this research will head.
Sabre (Julian)
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