First published 6/06/11 on The Doctor Weighs In
If I had to choose the area of medicine most difficult to unravel it would be psychiatric disease, and specifically schizophrenia and Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD. The difficulties are enormous; the causes can be environmental, genetic, or both: the diseases are multi genetic; the affected organ, the brain, is extraordinarily complex and largely unknown, and the psychiatric manifestations can range from barely noticeable to overwhelmingly disabling. Unless we understand these diseases on the molecular level therapy will be a hit and miss affair.
A paper in Nature magazine (26 May 2011) made a significant advance in understanding Autism. Daniel Geschwind of UCLA and post doctoral fellow Irina Voineagu, and their colleagues, asked a seemingly simple question: are the genes in the autistic brain expressed differently from those of a normal brain?