Autism and Brain Cancer Share Protein
Therapies and Resources for Children with Autism & Families
Some of the research done on autism may now help brain cancer researchers and patients. Scientists believe that an elevated protein called NHE9, present in cases of autism, is now part of the problem in some of the most aggressive brain cancers, glioblastomas.
In the human brain, the speed at which information is transmitted and how it is transmitted is a combination of a chemical and an electric process. Protons have to be moved from place to place and the speed at which they are moved has a lot to do with how a brain functions.
The protein NHE9 may have a role to play in both brain cancer and autism. Responsible for removing protons from endosomes, NHE9 may slow the process down for patients with autism. Endosomes, a cellular structure that helps to move protons, are effected by the level of acidity in the cell. This, then, effects the ability of the protons to move through the cell as well. Defects in the NHE9 protein makes endosomes too acidic, which causes them to release protons before the proper time. In the process, protons that are still needed are destroyed.
Researchers are just now scratching the surface as to how NHE9, autism and brain cancers like glioblastoma are related. What they believe is that because NHE9 with defects causes cells to be more acidic, it can cause cancer treatments to not work as well as in other forms of cancer. Having a high level of NHE9 can cause radiation and chemotherapy resistance in cancer patients.
While, in the case of brain cancer, NHE9 is overactive, many researchers believe that in autism NHE9 is underactive, causing a slowdown in the “shipping speed” of protons which effects perception and other brain functions. Over time, researchers are hoping to better understand the role of NHE9 in both brain cancer and autism.
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