A sensitive and reliable new protocol for assessing social deficits in animal models of autism and certain psychiatric conditions is expediting the search for effective treatments. Developed by University at Buffalo researchers, the new protocol is described in a paper published today in Nature Protocols. “The protocol we developed is facilitating studies on social behaviors and mental disorders related to social impairment,” said Zhen Yan, Ph.D., SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB and senior author on the paper. She noted that a clinical trial for an autism treatment now underway by Oryzon, the European biopharmaceutical company, is, in part, based on preclinical studies conducted at UB with the protocol. That trial is focused on a form of autism called Phelan-McDermid Syndrome, which results from a single genetic deficiency in a gene called Shank3. The UB researchers have significantly contributed to the understanding of how that genetic mutation causes the social deficits.  
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