Autism

Glia Cells

Breaking New Ground

Neuroscientists at Tufts University School of Medicine (TUSM) are breaking new ground in the study of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a condition affecting approximately 1 in 68 U.S. children.

Home to one of the nation's top-ranked neuroscience departments, TUSM has a significant commitment to ASD research, demonstrated by a top-drawer faculty roster. These researchers are working together across their labs, sharing discoveries and informing new ideas to move the science forward every day. 

Sophisticated core facilities to perform behavioral phenotyping in animal models and our state-of the-art imaging capabilities support an autism research powerhouse.

Innovation in Autism Research at Tufts

Our interdisciplinary and collaborative research is shedding new light on the synaptic aberrations underlying ASD. Moreover, we are at the forefront of defining glia cell aberrations in ASD. Our work also is of high relevance for other conditions that often present with ASD, including epilepsy, sleep disorders, anxiety, and mood disorders.

  • Genetic mouse models of ASD are allowing us to map cell types, brain regions, and neuronal activity patterns related to changes in memory processes and social behavior to understand the mechanisms that are leading to ASD.
  • We also strive to define the cause and potential regulators of the excitation/inhibition network imbalance underlying ASD, with strong therapeutic potential to address seizures in patients that result from this imbalance.
  • By studying the roles of specific proteins and enzymes in successful neurotransmission, we are working to pinpoint new targets for effective ASD treatments.
  • Moreover, our investigators are using mouse models of ASD to lay the foundations for novel early diagnostic blood tests.
  • Glial biology is an exciting new frontier in ASD research, and Phil Haydon, chair of the Department of Neuroscience at TUSM, is one of the world's leading experts in this field. Long thought to be the electrically silent neighbors of neurons, glial cells are now being recognized as central to a full understanding of brain activity and conditions such as ASD and epilepsy.
  • Recently, our studies have discovered a new role of glial cells in regulating the fragile X mental retardation protein, which controls the expression of multiple ASD-linked genes.
  • Teaming with leading pharmaceutical companies, and in line with the department’s emphasis on translational research, we are searching for potential targets for more effective therapeutics.

Read about our Principal Faculty in Autism.

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Support Research at Tufts

If you are interested in supporting Biomedical Research at TUSM, please contact Roxanne Beal, Director of Development for Biomedical Science, at 617-636-2417 or Roxanne.Beal@tufts.edu.