New Study Points to Abnormal Cholesterol Metabolism Association with Autism

August 26, 2020

Harvard and MIT Researchers Identify Dyslipidemia as a New ASD Subtype

Using DNA analyses of brain samples, a team of scientists from Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Northwestern University has recently established a link between lipid dysfunction and autism. The researchers assert that dyslipidemia is a new subtype of autism, which they maintain is caused by a cluster of genes which regulate cholesterol metabolism and brain development. While confident in their findings, the authors acknowledge that their new discovery leads to new questions, two of the most critical being, how do lipid variations cause neurodevelopmental dysfunction and could repairing lipid metabolism improve disease outcomes? They hope future studies will examine these issues.

The study recognized that the etiology of autism is multifactorial, adding that thousands of gene variants have been implicated, possibly through an interaction between genetic and environmental factors occurring both before and after birth. Senior investigator Isaac Kohane of Harvard Medical School describes the intricate nature of autism’s model of causation further and how it relates to their study. He states, “Our results are a striking illustration of the complexity of autism and the fact that autism encompasses many different conditions that each arise from different causes–genetic, environmental or both.” Kohane continues, “Identifying the roots of dysfunction in each subtype is critical to designing both treatments and screening tools for correct and timely diagnosis–that is the essence of precision medicine.”

In the research, the team expressed how important distinguishing subtypes of any disease is for designing treatments. They pointed out that the ability to identify disease subtypes in cancer has led to the development of many targeted cancer treatments. The authors hope for the same targeted treatment for autism as cancer has been able to develop.

Kohane concludes on an optimistic note by stating, “Our findings can help design precision-targeted treatments that hone in on the specific defect underlying the development of dyslipidemia-related autism. Conceptually, this is the same framework that we can apply in complex inherited neurodevelopmental disorders like autism and beyond. Our multimodal approach combining multiple types of data demonstrates that this is not possible but imminent.”

Original Article

Original Study

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons