Autism Research: July 24, 2015 Week in Review


Rising autism rates partially due to evolving diagnostic criteria

Yet another study has blamed the American Psychiatric Association’s constantly enlarging and encompassing diagnostic criteria for the increasing rates of diagnoses of autism in the past decade. Individuals who would have been identified with other intellectual disabilities are now being classified under Autism spectrum disorders, leading to the over 3 fold rise in its diagnoses from 2000 to 2010 in the American special education programs. The new study was led by Santhosh Girirajan, at the Penn State University and published this week in the American Journal of Medical Genetics. The study found a parallel reduction in students being diagnosed with other intellectual disability disorders concurrent with increasing autism diagnoses.

Journal Reference: Penn State. “Increasing prevalence of autism is due, in part, to changing diagnoses.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 July 2015.

Mothers with chemical intolerance about 3 times more likely to bear child with autism

A new study from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio identified that moms that are intolerant to chemicals are almost two to three times more probable as compared to other woman to have a kid on the spectrum or have ADHD. The study was published this week in the Journal of American Board of Family Medicine. The study was led by Lynne Heilbrun, and studied 282 mom with children having ASD and 258 moms with children with ADHD. Chemical intolerance often incapacitates people enough to not be able to carry out their routine functions even. The children of chemically intolerant mothers were also more sensitive to everyday chemicals like smoke or engine exhaust, fragrances and had more adverse effects compared to their neurotypical peers on exposure to food allergens, etc.

Journal Reference: L. P. Heilbrun, R. F. Palmer, C. R. Jaen, M. D. Svoboda, C. S. Miller, J. Perkins. Maternal Chemical and Drug Intolerances: Potential Risk Factors for Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, 2015; 28 (4): 461 DOI: 10.3122/jabfm.2015.04.140192


Low levels of vasopressin linked to social awkwardness in autism

A new study published from the prestigious Stanford University Medical Center has uncovered an association between low levels of the hormone vasopressin and poor socialization skills of children with autism. the hormone vasopressin, like oxytocin, is known to be important in regulating social behavior and was linked by author Karen Parker and her team to low levels in autistic kids. They hypothesize it is the reason children on the spectrum don’t understand that people can differ in their thoughts and motivations as compared to themselves. However, the study published this week in the journal PLOS ONE also reported that low levels of the hormone were also found in neurotypical children without any corresponding social impairment, concluding that vasopressin might be an incidental association, not a causal one for autism.

Journal Reference: Karen Parker et al. Arginine Vasopressin Is a Blood-Based Biomarker of Social Functioning in Children with Autism. PLOS ONE, July 2015 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0132224

Possible genetic cause of autism discovered

A gene that plays God to other genes, i.e an epigene that controls other genes has been identified as a partial contributor to autism, mental retardation, Rett Syndrome and many such other neuropsychiatric disorders that have hitherto not had an exact known cause. Conducted at the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute, the study was led by Manel Esteller, and published this week in the journal Genetics in Medicine. The study found that epigene JMJD1C (Jumonji Domain Containing 1C) regulates other genes and contributes, albeit in small percentage, to conditions of unknown origin. This research has thrown open a new avenue that many other low frequency disturbances on other genes and epigenes might be contributing to so called ‘unknown cause’ of medical conditions.

Journal Reference: Mauricio A. Sáez, Juana Fernández-Rodríguez, Catia Moutinho, Jose V. Sanchez-Mut, Manel Esteller. Mutations in JMJD1C are involved in Rett syndrome and intellectual disability. Genetics in Medicine, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/gim.2015.100