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Lab Reports
May 1, 2013

Cell Distress and Autism

JAMA. 2013;309(17):1765. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.4802

Reprogramming responses of cells to signals of cellular distress can reverse symptoms of autism in mice, possibly providing clues to pathogenesis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders, researchers report in a new study (Naviaux RK et al. PLoS One. 2013;8[3]:e57380).

Scientists theorize that many of the genetic and environmental causes of autism might act by producing a sustained distress response by mitochondria. To explore this, researchers from the University of California San Diego examined how adenosine triphosphate and other mitokines—signaling molecules made in mitochondria—are released from cells to communicate cellular health and danger. Many mitokines bind to neighboring cells through purinergic receptors, which control a broad range of biological characteristics.