The Autistic Gut

Today, there are no effective drug therapies that address the core symptoms of autism. A little known fact about autism is that more than half of autistic children suffer from gastrointestinal complications.

Gut microbes have been suggested as a possible link, but to influence the behavior they would have to interact first with cells in the lining of the gut, where sensory cells exist (e.g., enteroendocrine cells). Our discovery of the innervation of enteroendocrine cells brings the possibility of influencing the brain and thus, behavior, by targeting a gut neuroepithelial circuit.We are defining alterations in the connectivity of this gut-brain neurocircuit using a mouse model of autism.

Identifying how an alteration in gut sensory transduction influences brain function will be a foundation to develop drug therapies to alleviate gastrointestinal disturbances in children with autism.