According to a recent study from a team of researchers at Tel Aviv University, a mutation in a specific neuroprotective protein called ADNP has different expressions between males and females. This research adds new insights to what is currently known about the etiology of autism and Alzheimer’s disease. The results are published in the journal Translational Psychiatry.
Recent evidence suggests that ADNP has a neuroprotective effect in patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and has also been found to be decreased in the serum of patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
In the study entitled “Activity-dependent neuroprotective protein (ADNP) exhibits striking sexual dichotomy impacting on autistic and Alzheimer’s pathologies,” the research team found that the ADNP exhibits different activities in males and females, which implies that there are gender differences in the risk of developing certain diseases. While it has already been established that autism affects more males, and that Alzheimer’s disease tends to affect more females, these specific gender disparities remain minimally understood.
In a recent news release, Tel Aviv University’s Prof. Illana Gozes said, “If we understand how ADNP, an activity-related neuroprotective protein which is a major regulatory gene, acts differently in males and females, we can try to optimize drugs for potential future therapeutics to treat both autism and Alzheimer’s disease.”
Prof. Gozes and colleagues investigated gender differences in behavioral responses in mice with ADNP-altered and normal mice, to different cognitive challenges and social situations. The researchers observed learning and memory differences between female and male mice, especially in the hippocampus. The results indicate differences in ADNP expressions, which can result in ADNP-controlled autism and in genes that elevate one’s risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
“ADNP may be new to the world of autism, but I have been studying it for 15 years,” said Prof. Gozes. “Its gender-dependent expression changes male and female chemical tendencies toward different neurological disorders. Male and female mice may look the same and their brains may look the same, but they are not. When the expression of ADNP is different, it may cause different behaviors and different cognitive abilities. This study emphasizes the need to analyze men and women separately in clinical trials to find cures for diseases because they may respond differently.”