Autism Research: January 10, 2014 Week In Review

adn-icon-298x300Link uncovered between autism and language impairment

 A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry has discovered a potential link between autism and language impairment. The link might be the first step in clarifying why some children with autism have serious language difficulties while some don’t. Collaboration between the Rutgers University and The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital has resulted in this first ever molecular level genetic study of 79 families with a history of both autism and language difficulties. Using a battery of tests to assess language and genetic scanning, the team lead by Christopher Bartlett identified 2 novel genetic links of language impairment in the families they studied. Both the links have a joint relation to autism cases with impaired language and non-autism language impairment cases.

Since language problems are not part of diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorders, this study could lead to important therapeutic steps in the future after deeper and larger research. Also, it might help in treating language impairment if diagnosed early with help of genetic studies.


Genetics and air pollution combine to raise risk for autism

A new study conducted by the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California (USC), suggests that children carrying a particular gene when exposed to high grade air pollution appear to have a higher risk of autism. The study set to be published this month in the journal Epidemiology was conducted along with The Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital at Los Angeles. Chief investigator, Heather Volk says that compared to other children with the risk gene for autism exposed to low levels of atmospheric pollution, those with both the gene and high pollution around them had a higher chance of developing autism. Daniel Campbell, senior author of study, said that the risk gene, called the MET gene has been found to increase the risk of autism in multiple prior studies leading them, in part, to the above mentioned findings. The study has bearings on prevention and control of this disorder which is affecting more and more children each year in the USA and other parts of the world.

 SACS study to start screening children in China for autism

As reported in a full length report earlier this week, Dr. Josephine Barbaro, an Australian post-doctoral fellow, has developed a new set of markers to screen and diagnose children below two years for autism. She has partnered with the government of Tianjin, a city in northern China, to allow her to use her program called Social Attention and Communication Surveillance (SACS) study on every child born in Tianjin for the coming 7 years! Studying at the La Trobe University, Dr. Barbaro has designed a program that has trained nurses to monitor small signs and symptoms that act as markers in diagnosing the very young children up to two years of age. Given that about a hundred thousand babies are born there each year, the large sample size could lead to very conclusive evidences from the analysis of the data obtained. Also, it would help in early intervention for the diagnosed children.