JERUSALEM, May 22 (Xinhua) -- A team of Israeli researchers has discovered "a clear link" between high levels of nitric oxide in the brain and autism, according to a study published in the journal Advanced Science.
The findings could lead to the development of new drugs to treat autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).
The study, conducted by researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, found that in lab animals with a genetic mutation that causes autism, reducing levels of nitric oxide in the brain led to a decrease in autistic indicators and behavior.
The animals became more social, less repetitive, and less anxious, and they showed more interest in new objects.
Additionally, reducing nitric oxide levels led to a significant improvement in neuronal indices.
The researchers also found evidence of the link between nitric oxide and autism in stem cells and clinical blood samples taken from children with low-functioning ASDs.
Nitric oxide is a gas that is produced by cells throughout the body. It plays a role in a variety of functions, including regulating blood pressure, inflammation, and the immune system.
However, high levels of nitric oxide can be harmful, and previous research has linked it to several diseases, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and schizophrenia.