Spotted around the web: Synthetic embryos; Angelman gene therapy

Here is a roundup of news and research for the week of 26 June.

  • Older autistic adults are more likely than non-autistic ones to have experienced falls, bodily injuries, poisonings and self-harm, in addition to various health conditions, according to a population-based study in Sweden. The Lancet Healthy Longevity
  • An assessment tool that asks children about their participation and engagement in daily activities — a simplified version of “Picture My Participation” — has been validated in a Chinese-speaking population of autistic and non-autistic children. Scandinavian Journal of Occupational Therapy
  • Both deletions and duplications of the 22q11.2 chromosomal region can give rise to autism, but they have distinct neurocognitive profiles, according to a preprint. medRxiv
  • An organization that runs 130 autism treatment centers in the United States, funded by a private equity firm, has filed for bankruptcy. Spectrum has previously covered the ramifications of private investment in nursing homes and other care facilities. Reuters
  • A machine-learning technique called ‘federated learning’ makes it possible to screen datasets for people who may have autism without plugging their information into a centralized server, thereby skirting privacy issues. Scientific Reports
  • Naturalistic environments and situations in the laboratory are helping neuroscientists decode animal behavior. Nature
  • Biotech companies are tackling chromosomal conditions such as Angelman and Phelan-McDermid syndromes. Earlier this year, Spectrum reported on an RNA therapy for Angelman syndrome as modeled in monkeys. Labiotech
  • Two research groups developed synthetic embryos, or embryoids, from human stem cells, prompting ethical concerns. Spectrum reported on embryoids made from mouse stem cells in October. Nature
  • The Swiss drug company Roche has discontinued its work on rugonersen, a gene therapy for Angelman syndrome, after disappointing results from a phase 1 clinical trial. Spectrum covered preclinical data on the therapy in August. FAST
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued its first clinical trial guidelines for psychedelics (drugs such as psilocybin, LSD, and MDMA) as a treatment for psychiatric disorders and other medical conditions. FDA
  • A person’s age at autism diagnosis does not predict quality of life and well-being in adulthood; instead, the number of autism traits is a more accurate predictor. Autism
  • The density and location of serotonin receptors in the cortex of macaque monkeys are similar to those found in the human brain. Nature Neuroscience
  • The brain waves of several species — humans, bats and mice — sync up during social interactions. Scientific American
  • Motor problems are not adequately addressed by current autism diagnostic criteria, a team of researchers argue in a review article. Spectrum asked five experts to share their takes on the issue in January. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology
  • Social distancing during the pandemic did not affect the functioning of toddlers, children and teenagers aged 3-17 with developmental disabilities in Brazil. Journal of Intellectual Disabilities
  • Sodium channels don’t function properly in neurons derived from people with dup15q syndrome, a neurodevelopmental condition associated with autism traits and seizures. Epilepsia