Autism Research: April 11, 2014 Week in review

adn-icon-298x300Paternal obesity potential risk factor for autism

 As reported with a more in depth analysis in Autism Daily Newscast yesterday, a breakthrough study has found a heretofore unexpected risk factor in the rising rates of autism globally. A study conducted by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health found that obesity in the father could be a higher risk factor for autism in the child than maternal obesity. Released this week in the journal Pediatrics, the study was conducted by Dr. Suren, the first researcher, said that this was yet an infantile theory and needed much verification and deeper research before discussing cause-effect patterns between the two widely prevalent conditions.

The team under Dr. Suren studied data assembled from over 90,000 children of Norway of age groups 3, 5 and 7 years. Both parents had to answer a questionnaire about the mental and physical health of themselves and their child. On analysis the researchers found that fathers who were obese had twice the risk of having a child with a diagnosis of Autism or Asperger’s syndrome as compared to a father having normal weight and BMI. The findings make sense as per the researchers as it has been found earlier that mutations in chromosome number 16 can lead to morbid obesity or developmental disorders. Thus, there might be a genetic basis between the father’s obesity and child’s autism, the study concluded.

 Lipid levels impact autism during pregnancy

In a week full of surprising new discoveries, a study conducted at the York University revealed its findings that elevated lipid levels during pregnancy might be a trigger for autism. The researchers found that two vital neural pathways of the early intra-natal development might be affected by abnormal lipid molecule levels of the brain. They also said that cosmetics and certain over-the-counter medications used commonly can alter these lipid levels and might be a contributory factor indirectly for autism. Published in the journal Cell Communication and Signaling by lead researcher Christine Wong, the team of scientists found that a lipid molecule Prostaglandin E2 could hamper the Wnt proteins which could alter the entire course of embryonic brain development thereafter.

They also found that elevated levels of PGE2 could increase gene expression of genes regulated by Wnt proteins and multiple researches earlier have found these genes to be involved in autism, thereby corroborating the findings.

 Study finds prenatal molecular roots for autism and neuropsychiatric conditions

A study from the prestigious Yale University announced this week about a solitary molecular mechanism that was responsible for triggering brain cells and leading to neuropsychiatric disorders. The team of scientists exposed mice embryos to common toxins like alcohol, methyl mercury and maternal seizure-like processes and found that the developing brain activated a single gene they have named as HSF1 or Heat Shock Factor -1 which protects the brain from these insults. Mice that lacked this gene showed seizures and structural anomalies after birth even if the levels of exposure to these toxins were really low. The study pointed out that this mechanism might be the reason for multiple neuropsychiatric disorders that occur in exposed individuals. The research supports the hypothesis that stress pushed cells of the body towards malfunction. The study will be published in the journal Neuron  in the May issue.

For recent research breakthroughs originating in Israel read this article.