Autism Research: April 18, 2014 Week in Review

adn-icon-298x300New autism screening tool works at nine-month age

 A new autism screening tool developed by the Children’s National medical Center can now detect autism spectrum disorders of children between nine and 12 months of age. Researchers identified that the head circumference and the head tilting reflex were stronger biomarkers in identifying autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in children between 9 & 12 months age group.

Lead author Carole A Samango scientists screened about 1000 patients of age groups four, six and nine month’s age. They found that infants having head circumference above or equal to the 75th percentile, a head circumference which was 10% deviant compared to the infant’s height, and those who could not clear the head tilting reflex were identified to be at risk for developing ASD or a language development delay.  This study could assist physicians in diagnosing ASD or identifying children at risk of ASD more effectively and easily.

New spliced autism gene variants identified

 In path-breaking new study at the University of California, San Diego School of medicine, researchers have isolated new autism gene variants in human brains which were not identified previously because of their spliced forms. The protein products of these new genes were screened against many thousand other proteins and their interactions noted. The team lead by Lilia Iakoucheva found that the proteins elaborated by these spliced genes formed a whole network that has given a completely new view of autism gene interactions.

The team of scientists and University of California had collaborated with the Center for Cancer Systems Biology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to publish this study in the journal Nature Communications. The biological network thus identified leads new inroads into autism research and therapy.

Study sparks debate of risk of autism in boys following prenatal exposure to SSRIs.

That drugs have side-effects, we are all aware of, but side-effects that can damage a child forever are a complete no-no. Researchers from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health along with teams from the University of California, Davis’ MIND institute studied 1000 mothers. They arrived at a conclusion that the risk of developmental problems like autism was three times higher in boys in cases of prenatal exposure to SSRIs. SSRIs are used to treat depression and anxiety freely by physicians.

This study calls for a tighter rein on the prescription of SSRI as well as all drugs, especially to expecting moms, to avert unforeseen risks of disorders like autism, etc in the offspring. Anti-depressants might be countering depression but are probably producing autistic boys, Li- Ching Lee’s discovery suggests.

Families with an autistic child benefit with canine companionship

Researchers from University of Missouri has studied and found that families that have a child diagnosed with autism will benefit from owning a dog. Children learn responsibility, companionship better and have the canine companions provide greater stress relief for the family. The nonjudgmental and unconditional love that dogs provide is extremely beneficial for children with autism who tend to be judged and biased by humans and have difficulty in social interactions.

Autism Daily Newscast has reported on numerous occasions about the value of dogs for children with autism, particularly as service dogs.

Strong association with ASD and prenatal exposure to the antidepressants

Autism Daily Newscast also reported on a Baltimore study that found  boys whose mothers took antidepressants while pregnant, three times more likely to have autism