Autism Research: May 23, 2014 Week in Review

ResearchHuman touch a burden in autism, new research reveals

A new inquiry into the underpinnings of the troubles of autism has revealed that a probable dysfunction of the nerves called as C-tactile afferents, that conduct signals of touch and pleasure to the brain, leads to the aversion to touch in many autistic children. Faulty development of these nerves might be the reason there is adverse impact on the social functioning of the brain in kids on the autism spectrum. It might also be affecting their ‘sense of self’, researchers from the Liverpool John Moores University said. Lead by Dr. Francis McGlone, the study throws light on how sensory input is an important aspect of our social communication and point to importance of sensory integration therapies for children on the autism spectrum.

Autism adults probably have higher medical burden, 2 studies suggest

A new set of findings from two simultaneously conducted studies were presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research 2014 held at Atlanta this week. Lisa Croen who led one study from California found that adults with autism do not feel a part of the society and that might be one of the reasons they have a higher burden of health conditions, be it psychiatric, hypertension, diabetes, gastrointestinal complaints or sleep disorders and depression. Another study led by Joseph Piven of University of North Carolina found just 20 men having autism, over the age of 50 after contacting nearly 14,000 households. Almost half his patients had Parkinson-like symptoms and another 2 were referred for treatment of Parkinson’s while 1 patient was already under treatment for it. More on this story can be read here on Autism Daily Newscast.

CHD8 gene might lead to newer autism gene discoveries, scientists reveal

The CHD8 gene that is now considered among the strongest risk factor for being diagnosed with autism regulates the manifestation of over 50% of other genes thought to be ‘high-confidence’ risks for the condition. The study conducted by James Noonan from the prestigious Yale University was presented first at the IMFAR 2014 this week. The binding of the CHD8 with other genes will supposedly directly give access to many other hitherto unidentified genes that might be posing a risk to developing autism.

Gut fauna might be producing chemicals linked to autism

A new study has found that certain chemicals produced by gut microbes of children with autism are significantly different in their concentration of as compared to typical peers. The study was presented at the annual meet of American Society for Microbiology. Dae- Wook Kang from the Biodesign Institute of Arizona State University found that 7 of 50 gut compounds varied significantly in their concentrations in children with autism. The researchers suspect gut neurotransmitters might be altered leading to this change and might be affecting the brain vice versa too.

Chromosomal area affecting brain size linked with autism

Probably the most shocking study of all presented at the IMFAR 2014 was this one authored which showed that deletion of a region of genetic data on chromosome 16, which has been linked in the past with autism, might be directly affecting the size of the brain. The study found that deletion of the autism-linked chromosome region that amounts to about 20% autism cases, leads to a larger brain by roughly 9%, a common feature of autism.