Research Interests

Genetics of autism

Objectives: To date, many candidate genes have been examined for autism. Despite the strong genetic basis of this complex disorder, research efforts have had limited success in identifying causative or susceptibility genes, with the exception of a few functional mutations (e.g., NLGN3 and NLGN4).

The main objective of our research study is to examine post-transcriptional changes including non-coding RNA in autism which is an extension of our ongoing work investigating the role of epigenetic factors in the etiology of autism. Non-coding RNAs, such as microRNAs, do not code for protein but have other functions such as gene expression regulation.

Because epigenetic regulatory mechanisms influencing gene expression or post-transcriptional modifications may not change the genomic sequence, standard screening is unlikely to detect epigenetic factors. This warrants a need to design research plans using novel approaches to identify post-transcriptional changes and/or epigenetic factors (not identified by traditional genetic screening methods) which play a role in the etiology of this complex neurodevelopmental disorder.

Bioinformatics

Objective: Examination of changes at a level beyond the genomic sequence may result in a complicated data, which requires sophisticated bioinformatics tools for an appropriate analysis. In collaboration with other researchers, we are interested in using bioinformatics approaches in detecting autism susceptibility gene-pathways in the etiology of autism.