The incidence of autistic spectrum disorders has recently been estimated to be as high as 1 out of every 166 births.  It has become generally accepted that autism, in its various forms, represents a genetic and developmental, rather than a psychological, disorder.  While some recent progress has been made in the identification of autism susceptibility genes, very little is known about the functions of these genes during embryonic and neonatal development of the nervous system.  Dr. Robert Ho, Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, plans to investigate the role of a functional variant of the oncogene MET that was found to be associated within families in which two or more siblings have been diagnosed with autism. Dr. Ho hypothesizes that MET plays a role in the correct migratory behavior of neuronal precursor cells.  By understanding the immediate cellular functions of the MET pathway and correlating these functions to large-scale changes in brain architecture, Dr. Ho hopes to determine if changes in MET pathway can lead to changes in the development of specific brain structures which might contribute to the autistic phenotype.  The goal is to contribute to an understanding of how autism can be better diagnosed and prevented.

Other Grants

Lindsay M. De Biase, Ph.D., University of California Los Angeles
The role of microglial lysosomes in selective neuronal vulnerability
Synapses, the sites of signaling between neurons in the brain, play essential roles in learning, memory, and the health of neurons themselves. An enduring mystery is why some neurons are…
How the nervous system constructs internal models of the external world
As animals navigate their environments, they construct internal models of the external sensory world and use these models to guide their behavior. This ability to incorporate ongoing sensory stimuli into…
Xiaojing Gao, Ph.D., Stanford University
When Neural Circuits Meet Molecular Circuits: Quantitative Genetic Manipulation with Single-cell Consistency
Cells are the building blocks of our bodies. We get sick when the cells “misbehave”. The way modern gene therapies work is to introduce genes, fragments of DNA molecules that…
Rafiq Huda, Ph.D., Rutgers University
Conducting the orchestra of movement—functional role of striatal astrocytes in health and disease
Movement requires coordinated activity across a large brain-wide network. The striatum is a particularly important part of this circuit; it integrates motor-related information from many distinct brain regions to regulate…