Group E-newsletter: Which got here first, the food regimen or the intestine microbiota? | Spectrum
Illustration by Laurène Boglio
Hello and welcome to the community newsletter! I am your host, Chelsey B. Coombs, the engagement editor of Spectrum.
The research community released a new paper this week looking at the relationship between autism and the gut microbiome, which some work suggests may be less diverse in autistic people.
A thread by Chloe Yap, a graduate student at the University of Queensland in Australia and study coordinator, summarized the findings based on metagenomic data from bowel movements in autistic children, their non-autistic siblings, and unrelated controls.
Our #autism #microbiome paper “Autism-related nutritional preferences convey autism-microbiome associations” was published today in @CellCellPress! https://t.co/ZJpQ2Tkr44 thread below (1 / n) ????: pic.twitter.com/rK40M018nb
– Chloe Yap (@doyouseewhy) November 11, 2021
The idea that the gut microbiome could affect autism traits has been around for some time, and many autistic people and their families have turned to unproven treatments like probiotics and stool transplants to alleviate these traits. But the new study shows, as Kevin Mitchell, Associate Professor of Genetics and Neuroscience at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, said in a tweet that the “arrow of causality is going the other way.”
Autism-related nutritional preferences mediate autism-gut-microbiome associations
– Kevin Mitchell (@WiringTheBrain) November 11, 2021
Behaviors common in autistic people, such as restricted interests and sensory preferences, are pursued with reduced nutritional and microbiome diversity, the study shows – and it seems to debunk research in mouse models that suggest the relationship is in the goes in another direction.
It is important to support autistic people and their families with nutrition, tweeted Yap, telling them that “microbiome therapies for autism can do more harm than good.”
1. Clarity and Orientation for Families: Microbiome “therapies” for autism should be viewed with caution. They could do more harm than good.
2. Shifting the Spotlight: The Clinical Importance of Nutrition for Children on the Spectrum. We have to help families eat.
– Chloe Yap (@doyouseewhy) November 11, 2021
The German Bonilla Rosso, junior lecturer in basic microbiology at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, tweeted that the study shows that there should be more big data studies in microbiome research.
So we need better “big data” studies with appropriate experimental designs and statistical analysis … big publications in microbiome research became answers to a ghost variable. Like Pseudomonas nitrates and migraines. https://t.co/UaYhAVH5S3
– German BonillaRosso (@Ge_BoRo) November 13, 2021
Alain Dahger, Associate Professor of Psychology at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, linked the findings in autism to possible associations between dietary choice, obesity and Parkinson’s disease.
This is a real show of strength! Diet choices could also be responsible for microbiome associations in obesity and Parkinson’s disease. https://t.co/dgEO70e6am
– Alain Dagher (@alain_dagher) November 12, 2021
Again this week, scientists used Twitter to promote a resource that could prove incredibly helpful to autism researchers: A Single-Cell Atlas of Chromatin Accessibility in Humans. The chromatin complex helps to wrap the DNA so that it fits compactly into the cells; Changes in its structure make genes accessible or not and have been linked to neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism.
The researchers used an assay called sci-ATAC-seq to determine how chromatin is accessible at the single cell level in 30 adult human tissue types and combined this data with previous data from 15 fetal human tissue types to create the atlas.
Many researchers praised the paper, including Lucas Schirmer, Assistant Professor of Neurobiology and Neuroinflammation at Heidelberg University in Germany, and Hina Chaudhry, Professor of Medicine and Cardiology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
Fantastic Resource: A Single Cell Atlas of Chromatin Accessibility in the Human Genome https://t.co/PmpzMtDftp
– Lucas Schirmer (@schirmerlab) November 14, 2021
What a feat @sanginair @bingyanw https://t.co/64kkusjWTw
– Hina Chaudhry, MD (inaHinaheartdoc) November 13, 2021
Neelroop Parikshak, Clinical Fellow in Neurology at the University of California, San Francisco, tweeted how fast the data from single cell genomics is growing.
In recent years, the data in single cell genomics has exceeded the data from the previous year in scope and benefit! https://t.co/cMyitivRQP
– n-lr-p (@neelroop) November 13, 2021
Davi Sidarta-Oliveira, a PhD student at the University of Campinas in Brazil, tweeted, “Imagine how exponentially greater and deeper our knowledge of life will grow over the next 10 years.”
I am always in constant awe of what unicellular age represents from our species perspective.
Imagine how exponentially our knowledge of life will grow exponentially over the next 10 years. https://t.co/Xt2J1zOuyv
– Davi Sidarta-Oliveira (@davisidarta) November 12, 2021
Register for the November 29th Spectrum webinar featuring Ari Ne’eman, a PhD student in health policy at Harvard University and president and co-founder of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. Ne’eman will discuss ways to assess clinical progress in people with autism that do not encourage them to “pass” as non-autistic.
That’s it for this week’s community newsletter! If you have any suggestions for interesting social contributions in the field of autism research, email me at email@example.com.