The neuroligin-3 gene is found to have been altered, leading to a reduction in the effect of the oxytocin hormone. This alteration may be the cause for many of the social difficulties in people with autism. While it is caused by multiple factors, this particular alteration could lead scientists toward a treatment to help with the social difficulties faced.
Oxytocin is a hormone that affects mammalian social behavior and interaction. Using mice, the researchers examined how the mutation in the neuroligin-3 gene affected the signaling pathway for oxytocin, and thus how it affected the behavior of the mice in social situations. Researchers are confident that this alteration is reversible with a treatment involving an inhibitor of protein synthesis. In the mice, behavior became normal, which gave scientists hope that this treatment could help people dealing with social difficulties relating to autism. Overall, this study may lead to the elimination of social difficulties in people with autism, which would make for a better quality of life for many.
Related Article: https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-causes-autism