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UNC researchers discover possible cause of autism

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -

Scientists at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill have discovered a possible cause of autism, according to research published in the journal Nature.

The new study from UNC shows a problem with a key group of enzymes called topoisomerases which can have an effect on brain development and potentially lead to autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

"Our study shows the magnitude of what can happen if topoisomerases are impaired," said senior study author Mark Zylka, PhD, associate professor in the Neuroscience Center and the Department of Cell Biology and Physiology at UNC. "Inhibiting these enzymes has the potential to profoundly affect neurodevelopment — perhaps even more so than having a mutation in any one of the genes that have been linked to autism."

Those working on the study believe it could help with ASD detection and prevention.

"This could point to an environmental component to autism," said Zylka in a written release on UNC's website. "A temporary exposure to a topoisomerase inhibitor in utero has the potential to have a long-lasting effect on the brain, by affecting critical periods of brain development."

You can read more on this study on UNC's website.

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