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From Carry the One Radio: A Physician-Scientist’s Pursuit of the Why Behind Autism

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matthew state
Photo: statelab.ucsf.edu

By Marci Rosenberg, MSTP1

Earlier this year, the UCSF student producers of Carry The One Radio (CTOR) interviewed Matthew State, MD, PhD, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and a physician-scientist who practices clinically as a child psychiatrist, while also investigating the causes of pediatric neuropsychiatric disorders in his lab at Mission Bay.

Dr. State highlighted the importance of basic scientific research, especially in the field of psychiatry, explaining, “I think [science] is really going to change the way that people think about mental illness, that it will help profoundly change the stigma that’s associated with it.”

In conversation with the CTOR hosts, Dr. State spoke about his lab’s specific approach to understanding psychiatric disorders, and particularly, autism, which is to approach the condition from the lens of genetics: “If you could get to the level of resolution that you could see a change in the genome that was leading to complex behavioral change,” Dr. State hypothesized, “that might be a model to understand psychiatric disorder.”

Indeed, in collaboration with other labs, researchers in the State lab have discovered many fascinating pieces of information about autism by mining the toolbox of genetics. For example, in a zebrafish model of autism developed by knocking out a gene strongly linked to autism in humans, treating the fish with estrogen compounds ameliorated behavioral abnormalities. To hear more about Dr. State’s research into autism genetics and the moving reasons why he decided to study psychiatry, visit the CTOR website.

 

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Carry the One Radio

CTOR is a monthly podcast series produced by UCSF graduate students and postdocs. The podcast, founded by three graduate students, started airing in 2009. Samantha Ancona Esselmann, a Neuroscience graduate student and current president of CTOR, shared that she joined the organization because she “loves stories about science and because CTOR was doing something that seemed critically important – it was using a novel medium (podcasting) to try and reach communities, students, and educators who would not otherwise have access to all these vignettes about real-world scientists and their cutting-edge science that we (as scientists) now take for granted.” CTOR is looking for new members, so if you’re a UCSF student interested in getting involved, contact the group for more information.