Monday, 29 August 2016

The ketogenic diet and the BTBRT+Tf/J mouse model of autism

I was rather interested to read the findings reported by Richelle Mychasiuk & Jong Rho [1] suggesting that the expression of certain genes might be affected by adoption of a ketogenic diet in one of the more familiar mouse models of autism (the BTBRT+Tf/J 'dangermouse').

The ketogenic diet (KD), consisting of "a high-fat low-carbohydrate anti-seizure and neuroprotective diet" has been of some interest to autism research over the years (see here). Its potential usefulness has also been explored in mouse models of autism including the BTBR mouse model (see here) and this latest research should be viewed in that context.

The name of the research game this time around was to investigate "changes in mRNA [messenger RNA] and gene expression in the BTBR mouse model of ASD [autism spectrum disorder] that may contribute to the behavioral phenotype" including what happened to said gene expression following the use of a KD. Looking in mouse brains, researchers found a few genes that seemed to be differentially expressed in the BTBR mice compared to controls. Perhaps more important to this post however was the observation that following the use of a KD, there were some potentially important changes: "brain regions demonstrated improvements in ASD deficits associated with myelin formation and white matter development."

Bearing in mind mice are mice not people, this is interesting work. It does not imply that use of a ketogenic diet is going to be for everyone with autism in terms of 'altering' gene expression and onwards positively affecting the presentation of the condition. What it does imply is further exploration is required into how use of something like a KD might have quite a few effects that could explain why for some people it is a life-changer (see here). The idea that we don't all walk around with our genes in the 'on' position is also reiterated and potentially provides a roadmap for looking at gene expression when it comes to lots more different intervention options used with autism in mind...

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[1] Mychasiuk R. & Rho JM. Genetic modifications associated with ketogenic diet treatment in the BTBRT+Tf/J mouse model of autism spectrum disorder. Autism Res. 2016 Aug 16. 

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ResearchBlogging.org Mychasiuk R, & Rho JM (2016). Genetic modifications associated with ketogenic diet treatment in the BTBRT+Tf/J mouse model of autism spectrum disorder. Autism research : official journal of the International Society for Autism Research PMID: 27529337